Racial harassment and homelessness

If you become homeless due to racial harassment, you can get help from your local council, or from a council in another area. You don't have to be roofless to be homeless - you may be staying with friends and family, or living in a refuge, hostel or bed and breakfast hotel.

What should I do if I end up homeless?

If you find yourself with nowhere to stay as a result of racial harassment, you should contact your local council or a council in another area and make a homeless application. If you become homeless out of office hours, the council should have a 24-hour emergency number you can call. 

Are you homeless or at risk of becoming homeless? Find out how to apply to your nearest council for immediate help.

How can the council help me?

If you have nowhere to live and make a homeless application to the council, they have to offer you somewhere temporary to stay while they look into your situation and decide what kind of help you are entitled to. This temporary accommodation may be in a house, a flat or a hostel. In emergency situations, it may be in a bed and breakfast hotel.

If you are under 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 male or a female homelessness officer.

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.

The homelessness officer should deal with your application sensitively. If you are very upset and don't feel you can explain your whole situation at the interview, the officer should make arrangements for you to move into your temporary accommodation and then have a second interview later on. They should also be able to put you in touch with other local agencies such as Victim Support, who can offer you further support and assistance.

You can find out more about what to expect when you make a homeless application here.

What does the council need to look at?

When you make a homeless application, there are several criteria you have to meet in order to get a permanent home from the council. If you are escaping racial abuse or harassment, you should meet all the criteria.

The council considers abuse to be any form of violence or harassment, or any behaviour that is causing or is likely to cause fear, alarm or distress, or physical or mental damage.

Are you homeless?

If you have fled your home because of violence or abuse and have nowhere else to live, you should be classed as homeless by the council because it was not reasonable for you to stay in your home. This will be the case even if you have legal rights to return to your home.

Remember, you don't have to be sleeping on the street to be homeless. Staying with friends and family or in a refuge, hostel, hotel or bed and breakfast does not count as a settled home, so the council will consider you to be homeless if you are in this situation.

Are you intentionally homeless?

The council also has the power to look into whether you deliberately did (or didn't do) something which caused you to become homeless. If you have left your home due to violence or abuse, you cannot be classed as intentionally homeless.

Do you have a local connection?

If you don't want to be rehoused in your local area due to a risk of continued violence or abuse, you can apply to a council in another area. The council you apply to will not be able to refer you back to your local council if you are at risk in that area.

How do I prove to the council that I've fled racial abuse or harassment?

When you explain your situation, the council will ask you to provide details and dates of any violent or abusive incidents. You don't have to press charges against the person or people who've been harassing you, but any evidence you can provide will be helpful. If you can't produce evidence to back up what you say, the council should take your fears as proof enough. They won't contact the person or people who've been harassing you, as this could put you at risk.

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

Yes. When you make your homeless application, it's a good idea to put your name down on the council's housing waiting list at the same time. Make sure you make it clear to the housing department that you want to do both.

When you make your application, ask if there is a common housing register for your area. This is a joint waiting list for housing from the council and also from other registered social landlords. Joining a common housing register has two advantages:

  • it saves you time and trouble, as you won't have to make separate applications to the council and to all the individual housing associations and co-ops in your area

  • it increases your chances of getting accommodation

If there isn't a common housing register where you are, you will need to apply to each housing association separately.

Housing waiting lists don't work on a 'first come, first served' basis. Instead, the council or registered social landlord (RSL) will assess how much you need a new home, and prioritise applicants according to their need. Some councils and RSLs may prioritise people who are fleeing racial violence and abuse.

What other options are open to me?

You may also consider:

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help. Get Help

Last updated: 19 February 2018

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England