Skip to main content
Shelter Logo

Temporary accommodation if you're homeless

Getting temporary accommodation from the council

If you're homeless or likely to become homeless soon the council has to help you. The council must offer you somewhere temporary to stay if and when you need it. This is often called temporary accommodation or emergency accommodation.

The type of place the council has to offer you depends on what your needs are and what is available.

Do not refuse an offer of temporary accommodation if you have nowhere else safe to stay.

It's better to accept and then challenge an unsuitable offer than to refuse an offer.

When you can get temporary accommodation

You do not have to be living on the street to be homeless. You might be sleeping on a friend's sofa, or living somewhere unsafe.

Check if you could be legally homeless

If you're not a British or Irish Citizen

Your rights to get homeless help might be different.

Check our advice on immigration conditions for homeless help.

Asking the council for temporary accommodation

Contact the council’s homeless team and tell them:

  • you’re homeless or will become homeless

  • you need temporary accommodation

  • when you need it

  • who else lives with you

  • why you need temporary accommodation

What happens next

You'll need to make a homeless application with the homeless team. This often needs to be in person. Check our advice on making a homeless application.

Someone from the homeless team will ask you about your situation. Try not to leave out any important information.

Ask for an interpreter if English is not your first language or you use British Sign Language.

After taking a homeless application the council must give you a written decision that tells you how much help you'll get.

If the council finds you became homeless unintentionally they must offer you a suitable permanent home when it becomes available.

Check our advice on getting a homeless decision from the council.

Getting an offer of temporary accommodation

The council may phone you or tell you in person at the office where to go. They must offer you accommodation the same day that you need it.

If you cannot take all of your belongings into the accommodation, the council should store them for you. Check our advice on storing your belongings and caring for your pets if you’re homeless.

What the council can offer

In all types of temporary accommodation, you might have to share facilities such as a living room or kitchen with other people. Temporary accommodation can be a:

  • private flat

  • bedsit or studio apartment

  • room in supported housing

  • housing association or council flat

  • room in a women’s domestic abuse shelter

  • hostel, bed and breakfast, or hotel, but only as a last resort and for a maximum of 7 days

If the council refuses to help you

The council should offer you somewhere to stay if you need it. They cannot:

  • refuse to give you temporary accommodation by saying there is nothing available

  • tell you you cannot afford temporary accommodation

  • refuse to help you because you do not have a local connection to the area

Contact a Shelter Scotland adviser. They can explain your rights and help you decide what to say to the council.

You can also check our advice on what to do if you’re homeless and the council refuses to help you.

Last updated: 27 March 2024

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England