Skip to main content

View our coronavirus (COVID-19) housing advice

Making a homeless application to the council if you are disabled and homeless

This page looks at specific issues affecting people who are disabled and homeless. It explains what happens when you go to the council and what you can do if the council won't help you.

Who can 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 and permanent home, you will still be classed as homeless. For example, you may be staying with relatives or living in a hostel or bed and breakfast. Or you may still be living at home, but need to move out because of violence or abuse. You will also be classed as homeless if your current home is not suitable for your needs (for example, if you can't use the bathroom or kitchen) and cannot be adapted.

How do I make a homeless application?

To make a homeless application, you need to go the council's housing department or homelessness unit. The offices should be physically accessible for disabled people, but if you can't go in person, you can make an application in writing or over the phone, although this is likely to slow the process down.

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 on your council's website.

TIP! 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.

What happens when I go to make a homeless application?

The council will ask you to fill in a form, and a homelessness officer will then interview you. The council should provide all written materials for you in alternative formats such as Braille, audiotape or large print, and should offer you assistance with filling in forms, if necessary.

If you have a hearing impairment, you have a right to a sign language interpreter at your interview. Even if you have a friend who can sign for you, you should be offered the services of a trained interpreter. If you feel you need some additional support, you can ask a friend or adviser to come with you, to help you make your application and answer questions during the interview.

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 make a homelessness application.

Will I get somewhere to stay?

The council should give you somewhere to stay, for example in a flat, hostel or B&B. This is known as temporary accommodation. This should be accessible, safe and suitable for your needs. After you have been provided with this they will then decide if you should receive disabled friendly council housing.

TIP! If the council tells you that it doesn't have any temporary accommodation available, or gives you a list of hostels so you can find somewhere yourself, speak to an adviser from Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444 or Citizens Advice. An adviser will be able to check whether you should be entitled to temporary accommodation. If you are, they can contact the council on your behalf to ask it to find a place for you.

How does the council decide what help to give me?

Unfortunately, the council can't offer a new council home to everyone who appears to be homeless. There are several 'tests' you will need to pass before you will be eligible for a permanent home. You can download a 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 current home isn't suitable for your needs, for example, because it has stairs that you can't climb or a bathroom you can't use
  • 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
  • your neighbours are harassing or threatening you.

The council may suggest ways in which you can prevent homelessness, for example by getting adaptations carried out to your current home. They may offer you a community care assessment, to see if your current home can be adapted, and to assess your needs for future accommodation.

Did you become homeless intentionally?

Even if you are homeless 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 the page on intentionality to find out more and talk to an adviser if you're not sure where you stand.

TIP! If the council has accepted that you are homeless because your home isn't suitable for you or you're escaping 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 connection to the area?

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, have family there, or receive specialist medical help 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.

TIP! 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 council's 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. Depending on your needs, the council may find you a place in supported accommodation, such as sheltered housing. The home must be suitable for your needs - if it isn't, talk to a housing adviser, who should be able to help you challenge the offer.

You may have to wait a while before you can move into your new home, especially if you need a place that's specially adapted. However, 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. The letter should be in an accessible format and 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, or help you find a place in supported accommodation.

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.

TIP! 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 disabled, ill, elderly 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. For example, social work might:

  • provide you with accommodation
  • help you raise money for a deposit on a private rented place.

Social work will carry out an assessment of your needs to see what kind of help you require. Once a need has been identified, social work has to provide services that they consider reasonable to meet that need, taking into account the resources available to them.

What if the council won't help me?

The council may not be offering you the help the law says you should get. An adviser will be able to look at your situation and help you get what you're entitled to.

If you think the council has discriminated against you because you are disabled, you can take action about this as well. Read the section on disability discrimination to find out more.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're in England

Are you homeless or at risk of becoming homeless?

I need help

The important points

  • Contact your local council to make a homeless application.  
  • Try to take paperwork, especially ID or anything related to your housing situation.
  • Take a friend or family member with you if you need support.
  • You should be offered temporary accommodation whilst the council looks into your application. 

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us