Homelessness advice for vulnerable groups

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  1. Homeless upon release from prison
  2. Homeless after leaving hospital
  3. Care leavers
  4. Ex-armed forces personnel
  5. Relationship breakdowns and domestic abuse
  6. Suffering from a mental illness or learning disability

Homeless upon release from prison

If you are due to be released from prison and have nowhere to live, find out about services that could provide support and help you find accommodation.

Whilst you are in prison your Resettlement Officer will help you to find accommodation upon release.  If they can’t do this, they will get in touch with the Council to make us aware of your release date.

If you apply to us for help because you are homeless, we might not always have a legal duty to give you accommodation. In most cases, we will have a legal duty to create a personalised housing plan with you, and help as much as we can to help you to find a suitable home. In some cases, we may have a duty to give you temporary accommodation for a short time.

For us to be legally obliged to provide you with accommodation we will have to be satisfied that you are eligible, homeless, in priority need and that you have not made yourself intentionally homeless. We will take into account if you have spent time in prison when assessing your vulnerability, even if it has been some time since you were released. We will also look at whether you:

  • have a mental illness
  • have a learning disability or physical disability
  • have been in care
  • have been in the armed forces
  • are fleeing violence or threats of violence.

Priority need for prisoners and ex-offenders

In some circumstances, we may decide you are ‘in priority need’ because you are vulnerable after spending time in prison or on remand. This has a particular meaning for homeless applications and is not the same as being classed as vulnerable in prison.

When considering your homelessness application, we will look at:

  • the length of time you spent in prison
  • if any support is being provided to you either by probation services, youth offending team, or drug and alcohol team
  • evidence provided by any third party (including any housing needs assessment) about your homelessness vulnerability
  • the amount of time since your release from prison and how successful you have been in finding a home, and keeping homes you find
  • any support networks you have such as family, friends or a probation officer
  • evidence of any other vulnerability such as mental health problems, drug or alcohol misuse, or a history of having been in care
  • any other factors that might have an impact on your ability to find a home yourself.

The fact that you have been in prison does not automatically mean that we should treat you as being vulnerable and in priority need for accommodation. We will need to look at the evidence carefully be satisfied that you will find it difficult to find and maintain a home for yourself compared to other people who are made homeless.

When you apply to us as homeless, our Housing Options Service will check to see if you have a local connection with its area. You can have a local connection, for example, by living, working, or having family (usually a parent or brother or sister) in the area.  Time spent in prison in does not give you a local connection with the area where the prison is located so it would be about where you lived before that.

If you do not have a connection to us, you will normally be referred to the place you do have a connection with.  However, if you have no local connection with any area or if you are fleeing domestic violence, you can apply to any council in any area.

There may be restrictions placed on where you can live.  For example, if an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) says you can't go to a certain area, you may need to seek help from a different council. Find out more from Gov.uk web site about ASBOs.

High risk prisoners managed by a multi-agency public protection arrangement (MAPPA) may be required to live in certain areas.

It may be a condition of your release from prison that you live in Approved Premises.  If it is a condition of your release to live in Approved Premises, your probation officer or case manager will make the referral. Only a minority of released prisoners are required to live in Approved Premises upon release.  If you are not required to do so, it is your responsibility to get advice about where you will live upon release.

Your probation officer or case manager might be able to give you some advice about your housing options and can make referrals on your behalf to appropriate housing providers.

Homeless after leaving hospital

This advice is for people who will be homeless after being discharged from hospital.

What to do while in hospital

You should tell the hospital nursing staff as soon as possible, so that they know that you will be homeless when you are discharged. They will ask the hospital discharge team to help if they can.

The discharge team may refer you to the housing options team through the duty to refer process.

If you have a home already but it needs to be adapted, the hospital will refer you to the council team who are responsible for adaptations or the assessment of the Disabled Facility Grants.

Help available

If you apply to us for housing assistance because you are homeless in these circumstances, we may not necessarily be legally obliged to provide you with any accommodation.

However, we will have a duty to assess the circumstances of your homelessness, identify what your housing and support needs are, and to work with you to try to prevent your homelessness or support you to find you somewhere to live. We will provide you with a ‘personal housing plan’ which will tell you what we can do to help you and what you can do to help yourself. For us to be legally obliged to provide you with accommodation, we would need to be satisfied that you are eligible, homeless, in priority need and that you have not made yourself intentionally homeless.

Care leavers

This information is for if you have left care or will be leaving care soon.

If this is the first time that you will be living independently it is especially important that you are well prepared. Before leaving care you should be given a pathway plan which should identify what support you need to live independently.

If you are between 18 and 21 years (or up to 25 if you are in full time education) the children’s services authority who looked after you may still have a responsibility for you and you may qualify for after care services.

After care services

After care services can provide support with finding housing and financial support.

You will qualify for after care services if you are:

  • 16 or 17 years old and are currently in care and you have spent a total of 13 weeks in care since you were 14 (including some time was while you were 16 or 17) you qualify as an eligible young person
  • 16 or 17 years old and have already left care, you spent a total of 13 weeks in care from the age of 14 (including some time was while you were 16 or 17) you qualify as a relevant young person
  • 18 to 21 years (up to 25 years if you are still in full time education) and you spent a total of 13 weeks in care since the age of 14 (including some time was while you were 16 or 17) you qualify as a former relevant person

Personal Advisers

Before leaving care you should be allocated a Personal Adviser who will help you to:

  • apply for housing and benefits
  • identify your education and training options
  • develop the skills you need to manage your money and live independently

This support should be based on your individual needs which were identified in your pathway plan. Your personal adviser will continue to support you until you reach 25 – unless you no longer want this help.

How Housing Options can help

We will work with you to build on the housing options identified in your Pathway Plan to create a personalised housing plan which will include appropriate and realistic options to help you move out of care and into independent accommodation.

If you agree, we will involve your personal adviser in this process and keep them up to date with the efforts we are making to prevent or relieve your homelessness. Your plan may also include actions for your personal adviser to help you move forward.

Your plan may include:

  • A referral to supported accommodation: If you aren’t yet ready to live independently we can refer you to who will assess you to see if they can offer you accommodation with the support you need to develop the emotional and practical skills you need to manage a tenancy and look after yourself effectively.
  • Support to help you find private rented accommodation and help sustaining your tenancy.
  • Support to apply to BucksHomeChoice*

*If you are between 18 and 21 years (up to 25 if you are in full time education) and the Care Leavers Team at Bucks County Council and the housing options team agree that you have the skills to maintain a property, manage a tenancy and look after yourself effectively you will be given an elevated banding which gives you higher priority for housing. You still have to bid for properties. We may agree this even if you need some support to live independently. In order to qualify for this you will need to meet the local connection criteria for BucksHomeChoice.

Ex-armed forces personnel

If you apply to us for housing assistance because you are homeless in these circumstances, we may not necessarily be legally obliged to provide you with any accommodation. However, you may qualify for help from us if you are a former member of the armed forces and are homeless or threatened with homelessness and meet certain criteria.

We will have a duty to assess the circumstances of your homelessness, identify what your housing and support needs are, and to work with you to try to prevent your homelessness or support you to find you somewhere to live. We will provide you with a ‘personal housing plan’ which will tell you what we can do to help you and what you can do to help yourself. We will consider whether to provide you with emergency housing using both general rules that apply to all applicants and special rules that apply to people who were in the forces.

General rules for people in priority need

It can be easier to get help if you qualify under the general rules for people in priority need, for example, if you have dependent children or are pregnant. We will also explore if you are vulnerable in any way. This may involve showing how a disability, mental health problem, addiction or other issue affects your ability to secure housing for yourself compared with other people who are rendered homeless.

Extra homelessness rules for the armed forces

You should also be treated as being vulnerable and therefore in priority need for accommodation if you can show that your vulnerability is as a result of being a former member of the armed forces.

When deciding this, we may consider:

  • how long you were in the forces and what role you had
  • if you spent any time in a military hospital
  • if you were released from service on medical grounds (and have a Medical History Release Form)
  • if you have had accommodation since leaving service and if you have been able to obtain or maintain accommodation since you left
  • how long it has been since you left service

To help support your case, you may need to provide medical evidence from the Ministry of Defence, including a Medical History Release Form (if you were given one). You may need to seek independent legal advice or help from a specialist agency to make representations on your behalf if this council decides that you do not meet the criteria set out above, and therefore it does not owe a duty to provide you with accommodation.

Re-housing in the area of your base

To be accepted as homeless in the local council area where you were based, you must be able to show that you have a local connection with the local council where your base was situated.

You may be able to show a local connection with that area if you:

  • currently work in the area
  • have lived in the area for six out of the last 12 months or three out of the last five years
  • live with a partner who currently works in the area

If you have left the forces and are not yet working for another employer in the area, you will not be able to show a local connection through working in the area. However, you may still be able to show that you have a local connection as the time you spent living or working in the area may still count.

Upon the production of a letter of discharge or some other evidence that confirms the date of your discharge from the Forces, we should accept that from the date of discharge you will become homeless.

In the event that you have not sought any housing assistance prior to your discharge from the Forces you may need to stay in your accommodation as long as possible and wait for Defence Estates to evict you. Defence Estates have to give you a Notice to Vacate before they can take you to court in order that they can obtain a possession order. You can use any Notice to Vacate and any possession order that is obtained against you as evidence in support of your homelessness application.

Ex-forces and single, homeless and on the streets

We would encourage you to contact us to see us as even if we cannot provide accommodation and we can give you advice on:

Further housing support and advice by Veterans' Housing Advice

Veterans' Housing Advice is a new service which provides clear pathways for ex-service personnel in housing need throughout the United Kingdom to move into permanent homes. It is provided in partnership with The Royal British Legion, Shelter and Connect Assist, its main aim is to make accessing the services of charities easier through a telephone helpline open seven days a week from 8am-8pm. It can, for example, provide a housing intervention that negates the need to consider a rent bond or rent deposit.

There is a Veterans Housing Advice (VHA) web site (external link) and the direct number to an advisor is 0808 801 0880, that can also be accessed via the Veterans’ Gateway on 0808 802 1212 that is available 24/7. Services include: INSERT!

Relationship breakdowns and domestic abuse

Housing advice in difficult or sensitive situations

If you’re going through a relationship breakdown or suffering domestic abuse or violence, it’s very important that you seek legal advice before you do anything about your current home. You may have more rights that you think. 

Contact our housing options team for advice on your housing options.

Womens Aid support, help, give information, and run safe houses for women and their children. Call them on 01494 461367 or 0808 2000 247 (24 hour service) or visit the Wycombe Women Aid website: https://www.wycombewomensaid.org.uk

For male victims of domestic violence visit Men’s Advice Line

More information

Suffering from a mental illness or learning disability

The Housing Options team will try to identify housing problems at the earliest opportunity to hopefully prevent you from becoming homeless. This will be achieved through partnership and multi-agency working via the necessary support intervention you may require.

We have a duty to assess the circumstances of your homelessness, identify what your housing and support needs are, and to work with you to try to prevent your homelessness or support you to find you somewhere to live. We will provide you with a ‘personal housing plan’ which will tell you what we can do to help you and what you can do to help yourself. This might include actions such as attending appointments with a housing advisor or engaging with organisations that can assist individuals with mental illness or impairment.

For us to be legally obliged to provide you with accommodation, we would need to be satisfied that you are eligible, homeless, in priority need and that you have not made yourself intentionally homeless.

On the basis that you are suffering from a mental illness or impairment we may accept that you are vulnerable and therefore in “priority need” for accommodation. This will be determined by your personal circumstances and will take into account information we gather from various sources including any medical professionals involved in your care.

We will continuously review the advice and advocacy services available to you, and develop outreach support services according to your needs through the personal housing plan that will be completed in partnership with you and potentially your advocate.

Front-line workers within housing options have received mental health training, and will support you to access advice and guidance from specialist services, who will provide a more in-depth support to you. In the majority of cases we will be exploring whether supported housing is the best solution to your housing need.