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Gypsies/Travellers and homelessness

Gypsies/Travellers are entitled to help from the council if they have nowhere safe and permanent to live. This page looks at your rights.

What should I do if I end up homeless?

If you find yourself with nowhere to stay (for example, if you do not have anywhere safe to legally park your caravan or mobile home, or if you can no longer live there) you should contact your nearest council and ask to make a homeless application. If you move around a lot, it's best to contact the council whose area you have the strongest connection to (for example, where you work, have family, or have stayed the longest), unless you have experienced violence or harassment there.

If you are being evicted from a site and have nowhere to go, you can ask to make a homeless application straight away. Depending on the situation, the council may decide to let you stay on the site, either temporarily, while it looks into your situation, or on a more long term basis.

If you become homeless out of office hours, the council should have a 24-hour emergency number you can call.

How can the council help me?

If you have nowhere to live and you make a homeless application to the council, it has to offer you somewhere temporary to stay while it looks into your situation and decides what kind of help you are entitled to. This temporary accommodation won't necessarily be on a site - it may be in a house, a flat or a hostel. In emergency situations, it may be in a bed and breakfast hotel. If you would prefer your temporary accommodation to be on a site, you should say so when you make your application.

If you are under the age of 18 or have children, you may also be able to get help from the social work department.

What happens when I make a homeless application?

When you go to the council to make a homeless application, you will be asked to fill in a form. If English isn't your first language or you have any difficulty reading and writing, you can ask for help with this. You should then be given an appointment to see a homelessness officer. You can ask to be interviewed by a homelessness officer of either sex.

You can take a friend along to the interview for support, and you can also ask for an interpreter to translate for you if English is not your first language or you use sign language. Even if you have a friend who can translate or sign for you, you should be offered the service of a trained interpreter.

When you make your application, make sure you state clearly whether you want to be found permanent accommodation on a site, or in settled housing (for example, a 'bricks and mortar' flat or house).

The homelessness officer should deal with your application sensitively. If you feel they are treating you unfairly compared to other homeless applicants because you are a Gypsy/Traveller, you can complain about them - read the page on discrimination against Gypsies/Travellers to find out how.

You can also find out more about what to expect when you make an application.

What does the council need to look at?

When you make a homeless application, there are several 'tests' you have to pass in order to get a new permanent home from the council.

Are you homeless?

You don't have to be sleeping on the streets to be homeless. You may be homeless if:

  • you own a caravan or mobile home but have nowhere legal to park it
  • you are staying temporarily with family and friends, in their caravan or in 'bricks and mortar' accommodation
  • you're staying in a hostel or refuge
  • you have a home, but it's no longer safe for you to live there, for example, because you're in danger from domestic abuse, or from violence or harassment from other family members or your neighbours.

Are you intentionally homeless?

The council also needs to find out whether you deliberately did (or didn't do) something which caused you to become homeless. For example, if you have been evicted from a site, you will have to show that this wasn't your fault. If you are escaping domestic abuse or racial violence or harassment, you can't be classed as intentionally homeless.

Do you have a local connection?

The final test you have to pass when you make a homeless application is 'local connection'. This is to establish whether you have any links with the area. If the council doesn't think you have a connection, it may refer you to another council, provided you are not at risk of violence in that area. If you have been travelling around a lot, you may not have links to any council areas. In this case, any council you apply to should agree to house you, and shouldn't pass you onto another area. If this happens, contact an adviser at a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice, as they will be able to help you deal with the council.

Will the council give me a pitch on a site?

If you pass all the council's homelessness tests, you should be offered a permanent home. However, this may not necessarily be on a site, it may be in settled 'bricks and mortar' accommodation, which may be problematic if you want to continue a travelling lifestyle.

If you want to remain living on a site, you should make this clear to the council when you make your homeless application. As part of their duty to house you, the council should find you somewhere that's suitable for your needs. Read the page on permanent accommodation to find out what you can do if you aren't happy with the housing you're offered. If you end up in settled housing, the council should offer you advice and support in adapting to your new lifestyle.

Can I apply to the council's housing waiting list?

Yes. If you would like to move into settled council housing, you can put your name down on the council's housing waiting list at the same time as you make your homeless application. Make sure you make it clear to the housing department that you want to do both. The page on settled accommodation has more information.

What other options are open to me?

Find out more about housing options if you're homeless.

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