Homelessness and Rough Sleeping

Today someone will become homeless, tonight, someone will sleep rough for the first time. It will be cold, uncomfortable, lonely and potentially life threatening. They may face abuse or violence.

We all can do something to help.

You can use the MECC approach to help someone that you are concerned about. Contacting a local support organisation or an outreach service, could potentially save someone from homelessness and will help them find a safe shelter quicker. 


Duty to refer

Some organisations have a ‚ÄėDuty to refer‚Äô.

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 significantly reformed England’s homelessness legislation by placing duties on local housing authorities to intervene at earlier stages to prevent homelessness in their areas, and to provide homelessness services to all those who are eligible.

Additionally, the Act introduced a duty on specified public authorities to refer service users who they think may be homeless or threatened with homelessness to local authority homelessness/housing options teams.  Public authorities with a duty to refer in England are:

  • prisons
  • young offender institutions
  • secure training centres
  • secure colleges
  • youth offending teams
  • probation services (including community rehabilitation companies)
  • Jobcentres in England
  • social service authorities (both adult and children‚Äôs)
  • emergency departments
  • urgent treatment centres
  • hospitals in their function of providing inpatient care
  • Secretary of State for defence in relation to members of the regular armed forces

The new duty requires the specified public authorities to identify and refer a service user who is homeless or may be threatened with homelessness, to a local housing authority of the service user’s choice.

The service user must consent to the referral being made. The consent can be made in writing or given orally, although the person referring should follow the agreed processes set out in their agency’s internal guidance, if applicable.

A person is considered homeless if:

  • they do not have any accommodation which is available for them which they have a legal right to occupy; or,
  • it is not reasonable for the person to occupy their current accommodation, for example, because they would be at risk of domestic abuse.

Someone is defined as being threatened with homelessness where they are likely to become homeless within 56 days, or have been served with a valid notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 by their landlord, which expires within 56 days.

Full details on the Duty to refer are available here.

Not sure which local council you need?  You can find out straight away from a postcode here.

Very Brief Intervention


Reaching out to someone who we think may be at risk of homelessness or who is already living on the street can be so impactful, treat them how you’d like to be treated.

Here are key questions to Ask to help signpost the specific needs of a homeless person or someone found rough sleeping.

Initial Contact  - Do you need any help? Have you got a safe place to go to? 

How long have you been on the streets? Have you been in contact with a local homelessness team?

Previously housed in?...(own mortgaged, own rented, shared, hotel/B&B, squat supported housing, hostel)

If not currently homeless, does individual have a means of getting home? Is home safe? Current address? 

Does the individual have a phone? 

Does the individual have a probation officer? Contact details?    Would the individual like you to contact someone for them?



Once you have established the particular circumstances and needs of the individual what can you do to help?

Please click on the below regional links for information about Homelessness and Rough Sleeping relating to your locality.

Details of National support services for the Homeless can be found under the 'Act' tab.


National Support


Street Link is a national service which can be used if you see people sleeping rough. Referrals can be made 24 hours a day using the hotline or online.

Tel: 0300 500 0914 - Although the hotline is a 24 hour service outreach teams may not be able to assist that person straight away. 

Website: www.streetlink.org.uk - You need to register to access services


A person can contact the free Shelter helpline if they have nowhere to sleep or might be homeless soon, they have somewhere to sleep but nowhere to call home or could be at risk of harm.

Tel: 0808 800 4444 - The helpline is open 365 days a year and accessible at the following times: 

8am - 8pm on weekdays

9am - 5pm on weekends

Website: https://england.shelter.org.uk/


Local Support and Contact Details