Help from the council

If you have nowhere to live, you can make a homeless application to the council. You don't have to be sleeping on the street, you can be staying with friends or family. The council should find you a place to stay temporarily, and may offer you a permanent home. This page explains what happens when you go the council and what you can do if the council won't help you.

Make a homeless application

You don't have to be sleeping on the street to get help from the council. If you don't have a safe or permanent home, you will still be classed as homeless. For example, you may be staying on a friend's sofa or staying with relatives. Or you may still be living at home, but need to move out because of violence or abuse.

How do I make a homeless application?

To make a homeless application, you need to go the council's housing department or homelessness unit. If the council offices are closed, there should be an emergency number you can call to get help. The address of your nearest office and the emergency number should be listed in the Advice Services Directory or on your council's website.

When you go to the council's offices, make sure you make it very clear that you want to make a homeless application. The council has to accept your application, so don't let them turn you away.

You can find out more about contacting the council and making a homelessness application. You can also download a flowchart showing the homelessness application process and a list of things to take along with you when you go to make your application.

What if I'm told I can't apply?

The council has to accept your application - don't let them turn you away at the door. However, in certain circumstances the council may decide that you're not eligible for help. This may be the case if:

  • you have lived abroad, or
  • you've made a homeless application recently and your circumstances haven't changed since.

Find out what you can do if the council says you can't apply.

I need somewhere to stay

The council should offer you somewhere to stay, for example in a flat, hostel or B&B. This is known as temporary accommodation.

How does the council decide what help to give me?

There are several 'tests' you will need to pass before you will be eligible for a permanent home. You can download a homelessness application flowchart that shows you how the tests work.

Are you homeless?

The first thing the council has to establish is whether or not you really are homeless. The council has a very precise definition of homelessness, and it may not be the same as your definition.

You are likely to be found homeless if:

  • your parents have asked you to move out
  • you were staying with relatives or friends and can't stay there any longer
  • you left home due to violence or abuse or because you were afraid of being abused.

If you have left home because of family arguments, the council may suggest that you try to sort out your problems with your parents or carers with the help of an impartial third party called a mediator. If you decide to do this, it shouldn't affect your homeless application.

Find out more about mediation.

Did you become homeless intentionally?

The council can refuse to offer you a permanent home if it believes you deliberately did, or didn't do, something which resulted in you becoming homeless.

The rules about intentionality can be complicated. For example, you might think you are intentionally homeless if you didn't pay your rent and were evicted. However, if you didn't pay your rent because you were ill and couldn't go to work, you wouldn't be seen as intentionally homeless. Read more about intentionality and talk to an adviser if you're not sure where you stand.

If the council has accepted that you are homeless because your parents kicked you out or you were running away from a violent or abusive situation, you can't be found intentionally homeless. Talk to a housing adviser if this happens to you - they can help you challenge the council's decision.

Do you have a local connection?

The final test you have to pass is local connection. This is to establish whether you have any link to the council's area, for example because you live or work there, or have family there. If the council doesn't think you have any connection, it may refer you to another council where you do have a connection, although it doesn't have to. If this does happen, the council you're referred to has to find you a permanent home. You won't have to go through the homelessness tests again.

If you left an area because you were at risk of violence or abuse there, the council can't send you back.

What if I pass the tests?

If you pass all the tests, the council will offer you a permanent home. This could be a council house or flat, or a tenancy with a housing association or private landlord, and can be located anywhere in the council's area.

You may have to wait a while before you can move into your new home, but you will be able to stay in your temporary accommodation until your permanent accommodation is arranged.

What if I don't pass the tests?

If you don't pass the tests and the council decides it can't offer you a permanent home, you will be allowed to stay in your temporary accommodation for a bit longer (at least 28 days from the date of the decision), to give you time to find your own accommodation. The council should help you find somewhere.

The council must tell you about its decision in writing, and the letter must list the reasons why you have not been offered a permanent home. Show the letter to a housing adviser: if the reasons are not adequate or don't properly take into account your situation, an adviser may be able to help you challenge the decision.

A housing adviser can also go through your housing options with you and help you find somewhere else to live. For example, they may be able to help you get a deposit and advance rent for a flat.

Can social work help me?

The housing department may refer you to social work if:

  • it doesn't have a duty to help you (for example, because you failed one of the homelessness tests) but believes social work does, or
  • it does have a duty to help you but believes social work can offer you better help, for example if you have difficulties living on your own due to your age, any disabilities, etc.

The council should have a procedure in place to ensure that you aren't passed endlessly between the housing and social work departments, with neither taking responsibility for your case. However, if you think this is happening to you, go and see a housing adviser immediately.

Who can social work help?

The social work department may be able to help you if you are homeless and are:

  • under 18 years old
  • responsible for dependent children
  • under 21 years old and have been in care
  • ill, or have physical or mental health needs that are not being met.

What can social work do to help?

The type of help social work provides can vary because it is not defined in law. They might:

  • help you to raise money for a deposit on a private rented place
  • provide other financial support.

If you need help dealing with social work, talk to an adviser at a Shelter advice or Citizens Advice, or at a youth information agency.

The important points

  • You don't need to be sleeping on the streets to make a homeless application to the council.
  • Your council has to accept your homelessness application.
  • The three questions the council will ask to decide if they can help you are: are you homeless, did you become homeless intentionally and do you have a local connection.
  • If the council won't help you or you feel you're being passed endlessly between council departments, call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444 to check what help they should provide with with.

Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

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