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National Homeless Advice Service

Helping young homeless clients in an emergency

If a young person has no accommodation immediately available to them, advisers can assist in making a homeless application and looking at emergency accommodation options.

Local authority duties to young homeless people

If the young person is aged under 18, see Helping homeless 16 and 17 year old clients.

For young people aged 18 and over, a local authority homelessness service must provide suitable interim ‘emergency’ accommodation where there is reason to believe that they may be:

In order to make a homeless application, it should be sufficient for a young person to tell the housing department that they are homeless. Where possible they should provide enough information to demonstrate that they are eligible for assistance and have a priority need. However, local authorities may be reluctant to take a young person’s word that they are homeless, and advisers may have to be prepared to argue the case on their behalf.

A person is homeless not only when they have nowhere at all to live, but also when it is not reasonable for them to continue to live in any accommodation that may be available to them - this could be the case, for example, if a young person is at risk of abuse where they are living. See Shelter Legal: Reasonable to continue to occupy.

As long as there is reason to believe that the young person is homeless, eligible for assistance and has a priority need, the local authority must provide or arrange accommodation for the young person on the same day that they have applied for assistance.

A refusal to provide interim accommodation where there is reason to believe that the young person meets the criteria can be challenged by judicial review.

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Making a homelessness application

Advisers can support young homeless clients to make a homeless application. This will provide immediate (emergency) accommodation if the young person meets the three tests above.

If an application is not successful, the young person can be referred to a solicitor for advice on whether to challenge the decision by judicial review.

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Exploring other accommodation options

If it is unlikely that the council will have an interim accommodation duty (for example because the young person does not have a priority need), or the young person has already applied as homeless unsuccessfully (for example, because they were found intentionally homeless), then other options will have to be considered.

  • staying with friends or family: can be a short-term option while the young person is looking for longer-term accommodation
  • hostels or nightshelters: have different rules on how long people can stay, but, again, will usually only be a short-term option. There may be extra provision in cold weather.
  • privately rented accommodation is usually only an option where the young person has money available (or can access funds) to pay a deposit and rent in advance
  • supported lodgings schemes: the young person stays with a household that have volunteered to take in homeless people aged 16-25. These schemes are a short-term option; placements are usually for a maximum of three nights
  • bed and breakfast: this may be an option where the young person has money (or can access funds) to pay for it. Again, it will only be a short-term option
  • supported accommodation/foyers: some supported accommodation projects for young people will accept emergency referrals, however many may be over-subscribed and have a waiting list.

Social services also have duties to provide accommodation and support for certain young people (for example some care leavers) if they become homeless.

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Being prepared

Advisers for young people may wish to have procedures in place for dealing with emergencies. Parental evictions often happen just before the weekend, so it would be useful to ensure that there are enough staff available, if possible, to deal with emergencies on Friday afternoons. Advisers may wish to compile a directory of accommodation projects and providers in their area to ease referral of a young person in an emergency situation.

Details of local support services are also available from Homeless Link.

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Rough sleeping

For more information on advice for clients who are rough sleeping, see running away and rough sleeping.

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