What is homelessness or threatened with homelessness?

You are homeless if you have nowhere to stay and are living on the streets. But you can be homeless even if you have a roof over your head. You can be homeless if you do not have rights or permission to stay where you are, or you live in unsuitable housing.

You can count as homeless if you are:

  • staying with friends or family
  • staying in a hostel, night shelter or bed and breakfast
  • squatting (because you have no legal right to stay)
  • at risk of domestic abuse
  • experiencing violence or abuse in your home
  • living in poor conditions that affect your health
  • separated from your family because you do not have a place to live together

Am I eligible for help?

When you make a homeless application or ask for council help, the council will first check that you are eligible for assistance.

An officer will ask:

  • about your immigration status
  • if you have lived abroad recently

We will ask about this even if you are a British citizen or have lived here all your life.

Am I in priority need?

You may be considered to be in priority need if any of the following applies to you:

  • Have children who are part of your household that are dependent on you
  • You, or your partner, is pregnant
  • All 16 and 17 year olds, provided they are not a ‘relevant child’ (relevant children remain the responsibility of social services) or a child in need to whom a local authority owes a duty under section 20 of the Children Act 1989
  • All 18 to 20 year olds (other than ‘relevant students’), who ‘at any time after reaching the age of sixteen, but while still under eighteen’ were, but are no longer, looked after, accommodated or fostered
  • Are homeless as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse
  • Are homeless as a result of an emergency, such as fire, flood, or other disasters
  • Are vulnerable as a result of:
    • old age, mental illness or disability, physical disability or other special reason
    • having been looked after, accommodated or fostered and is aged 21 or over (other than ‘ relevant students’)
    • having been a member of His Majesty’s regular naval, military or air forces
    • having had to leave accommodation because of violence or threats of violence from another person that are likely to be carried out

Each application is determined on a case-by-case basis.

If, after the assessment, we have reason to believe that you are homeless, eligible for assistance and in priority need for accommodation, you will be offered emergency or temporary accommodation whilst we investigate your application and work collaboratively with you to resolve your homelessness.

We may also help you find suitable accommodation for the longer-term, either in the social or private rented sector. This is if we are satisfied that you have not deliberately made yourself homeless.

If we decide you are not in priority need for housing, we will still offer you help to relieve your homelessness; however, you will not be offered emergency or temporary accommodation. Also, if, at the end of 56 days, our efforts to help relieve your homelessness have not been successful, we will have no further duty to you with respect to your housing needs. We will offer you advice and assistance on finding another home, which is likely to be in the private rented sector.

Do I have a “local connection”?

“Local connection” refers to the links you have to an area whether through residency, employment, close family associations or any other special reason.

If we are satisfied that you have no local connection to our area, we may refer you to the local authority to which you have a connection for homelessness assistance.

You can apply to any local authority for assistance if you are homeless; however, if you do not have a local connection to that Council, you could be referred to a different Council for help with your housing needs.

Am I intentionally homeless?

You become homeless intentionally if you deliberately did something to cause yourself to lose your home. Examples include:

  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Not paying your rent when you could afford to

Whilst we are helping you to resolve your homelessness, we will also be looking closely at the circumstances that led to your homelessness, and whether you contributed to it. If it is established that you deliberately did or failed to do something that led to the loss of your home, we may find that you have made yourself intentionally homeless. This will limit the help that you can get from the Council.

Can I request a review?

You can ask for a review on certain decisions related to your application with us. If you would like to request a review of a decision, or decisions, we have made about your application, you must do so within 21 days from when we notified you of our decision.

What should I do if I’m at risk of homelessness?

If you are homeless or worried you may lose your home, the earlier you tell us the better chance we have of being able to help you. You can do this by completing our online referral form.

Who should I contact about a housing emergency out of hours?

If you have an immediate homelessness situation and you have nowhere safe to sleep tonight, phone us urgently on 0300 123 2224.

If phoning after 5pm, on a weekend or on a bank holiday, use our out of hours service on 0300 1232327.

What if I fail to cooperate?

If you do not follow a step, or steps, in your personalised plan, you may be deemed as refusing to co-operate. Your actions must be deliberate and unreasonable. We will try to understand why you have not co-operated. There may be a good reason why you failed to carry out a step. For example, you may not understand the step. We will consider your circumstances and needs when deciding if you have been unreasonable.

If you fail to co-operate, we can send you a written warning which will explain what will happen if you continue to fail to co-operate with your personalised plan.

If you continue to deliberately and unreasonably refuse to co-operate with your personalised plan, then we will notify you that the prevention duty or the relief duty (whichever applies) is ended.

Will the council provide me with emergency accommodation?

If we cannot prevent a household from becoming homeless, we may have a duty to provide temporary accommodation for some households with vulnerable members. This accommodation could be bed and breakfast accommodation in emergencies, or other facilities that we have sourced to meet this duty. For example, if you are aged between 16 and 25 and have a local connection to Somerset, you will be able to access our housing related support and accommodation service called ‘Thrive 16+’. This accommodation may not be in the same area as you lived previously. Managing this accommodation to meet our demand can be challenging and may mean that we must ask households to move at short notice.

If you are in our emergency or temporary accommodation, it is important to continue to look for appropriate longer term accommodation options. We expect you to be looking at all options in a wide geographical area to secure this.

It is very important that anyone who is placed in our emergency accommodation observes all the house rules of the accommodation, and sticks to the terms of the license agreement they will have signed before moving in. Breaking the terms of your licence agreement may put your accommodation at risk.

If we accept a homeless duty to your household, this duty can be discharged by an offer of appropriate accommodation from either the social or private sector.

Where can I get free housing advice?

The council has a legal duty to provide you with advice and information about homelessness and the prevention of homelessness, free of charge.

Phone us now on 0300 123 2327. You may also be able to receive free legal advice from organisations such as Shelter.

Last reviewed: July 9, 2024 by Neil

Next review due: January 9, 2025

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