For many the word ‘homeless’ conjures images of sleeping bags in shop doorways, but although rough sleeping is a very real and serious issue, it isn’t the only scenario.
People can find themselves homeless or threatened with homelessness at any time in their life, and for many different reasons. Nor is it only those who literally have no roof over their head who are classed as homeless. You may have an address, but it may not be practical, or even safe, to stay there, or your accommodation may only be temporary. The charity Crisis estimates that more than 70,000 households in the UK are living in temporary accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts or refuges, many with children.
Homelessness may be sudden – family breakdown may leave you with nowhere to go, for example – or you may know it’s coming, but feel powerless to do anything about it. Perhaps you’ve been served with a notice to quit, but you’re worried about how you’ll find somewhere new close to your children’s school, and how you’ll afford the inevitable deposit if you do.
And then there are the ‘hidden homeless’ – those, often younger, single people, who may not appear in official statistics because they’re managing their situation informally; living with relatives or friends, or ‘sofa-surfing’.
How Citizens Advice can help …
We can help you to understand and manage your situation, and navigate the next steps towards finding somewhere safe, suitable and secure to call home. If you’re faced with eviction, we can check that the correct procedure has been followed, and we may help you negotiate with your landlord if that is appropriate. We can help you apply for local authority housing and make sure you’re claiming all the benefits you’re entitled to. We can help you towards a more stable future, as we did with Ollie.*
When his mother’s partner moved in, Ollie moved out. The two had never got on, but living in the same house had heightened tensions – there had been a physical fight – and the situation had become untenable. Ollie had been living at his friend’s house for the past month, but this was far from ideal – there was little room and he didn’t even have a bed – and he’d been asked to leave. He came to Citizens Advice with no plan and no idea what to do next. He didn’t know how to approach the local authority and admitted he was ‘hopeless at filling in forms’.
His adviser talked him through the process of applying to the housing register, helped him gather information to show a local connection to the borough, and explained how the authority would create a housing plan for him. We also helped him make a claim for Universal Credit and explained that he would also be eligible for the housing element at the shared accommodation rate.
Knowing that something was happening, his friend’s mother agreed to let Ollie stay until his first UC payment came through, by which time he’d found a room in a shared house.
‘It’s brilliant,’ says Ollie. ‘It’s only a room, but it’s MY room, and I have the use of a kitchen to cook something decent to eat and a washing machine so I can keep my clothes clean and tidy for interviews! But without Citizens Advice I wouldn’t have known where to start.’
*Name changed for reasons of confidentiality
CITIZENS ADVICE WAVERLEY CONTACT DETAILS:
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