Housing and Homelessness

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


It can often be hard to know what to say to someone homeless. We may feel awkward, and in some cases end up not saying anything at all.

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, it’s never nice to be ignored!

Its O.K to explain that you don’t have anything to give, most people just want to be talked to, it doesn’t matter what it’s about.

If you‚Äôre unsure what to say, just ask ‚Äėare you alright?‚Äô ‚Äúdo you need any help?‚ÄĚ have you got a safe place to go to?

There are small amounts of aggressive beggars that will ask for money, generally these are the few people that harassing people in the streets and you shouldn’t try to engage with these people. 


Beyond talking, what can you do to help?


If you think the person you are concerned about is in immediate danger or needs urgent care, please call 999.

Whilst there are some amazing national services available, we recommend a local first approach.  A list of local services can be found at the foot of this text

Street Link is a national service which can be used by members of the public if they see people sleeping rough. Referrals can be made using the hotline (0300 500 0914) or online at Street Link.

This service aims to connect rough sleepers with appropriate services, both statutory and voluntary. Local resources for rough sleepers vary greatly across the country. They can include day centres, contact and assessment teams, soup kitchens and soup runs. Details of such resources can often be obtained by contacting local authorities.

Street assessment teams give rough sleepers information about available health care, night shelters and hostels, and other resources for homeless people. Some hostels and night shelters will only take referrals from a contact and assessment team worker. Some outreach teams will work with people on a long-term basis.

Information on over 9,000 services - hostels, day centres and other advice and support services for homeless people and those at risk of homelessness can be found at: www.homelessuk.org/

Not sure which local authority area to choose?  If you know a postcode you can check which local authority area here.

Local Support and Contact Details