Claiming benefits, working, and your rights while homeless

People who are homeless are entitled to claim benefits, work, receive healthcare and vote.

Get help if you have nowhere to stay

Day or night, contact the council if you have nowhere safe to stay.

You should be given accommodation on the day you need it.

The council must help if you are homeless or likely to become homeless in the next two months.

Get help from the council

Claiming benefits

If you are homeless you are still entitled to claim benefits.

Universal Credit

In most cases, if you are out of work or on a low income you can apply for Universal Credit.

Housing Benefit

If you’re in temporary accommodation, this may be paid for by Housing Benefit.

Your homelessness officer can help you make the application.

Money in an emergency

If you need money in an emergency, you may be able to apply for a Crisis Grant from your local council.

Other benefits

If you are unable to work because of illness or disability, you may be eligible for Personal Independence Payments or Employment Support Allowance.

Check if you're entitled to benefits

Use the Turn2us benefit calculator

You’ll need information on your household’s:

  • income and savings

  • outgoings, such as rent

  • existing benefits and pensions

  • council tax bill

Get help managing your money

Services that can help with budgeting, applying for benefits, and debt:

If you’re already claiming benefits

If you are already getting benefits when you become homeless, you can continue to do so.

Update your benefits provider with any changes of circumstance, like a new address or change of the number of people in your household.

If you get direct payments of benefits into your bank account or post office account, this will continue.

If you do not have a bank account or post office account, you may be able to arrange to collect benefit cheques from your local benefits agency or Jobcentre Plus.

Working while homeless

Jobcentre Plus can help you look for work. It may be a requirement of claiming benefits that you are actively seeking work. If you are disabled or have mental health issues, this may not apply to you.

Find your nearest Jobcentre Plus

Get help finding a job with Fair Start Scotland

Fair Start Scotland helps people living in Scotland find work. The service offers an individual development plan to get you to where you want to be. Taking part will not affect your benefits.

Your key worker can help you:

  • recognise your skills and create a CV

  • prepare for interviews

  • find opportunities to help you gain skills and experience

  • find jobs that meet your needs

Fair Start Scotland will continue to give you support for up to 12 months after you've found a job.

Find a Fair Start Scotland provider or call 0800 049 7061.

Registering with a doctor

You can still access healthcare if you’re homeless. You can use a care-of address, such as a friend's place or a day centre. Find a doctor in your area by:

You can ask to be seen as a temporary resident if you're staying somewhere longer than 24 hours but less than three months.

Accessing legal advice

Legal advice could help you resolve a range of problems, including family law, immigration and housing issues.

There may be law centres offering free advice in your area.

If you are going to court and need a solicitor, you may want to check that they take on cases funded by legal aid. Legal aid is the help you can sometimes get when you cannot afford to pay your own legal costs.

Find out if you’re likely to qualify for legal aid

Find a solicitor


You can vote if you’re homeless, provided you are over 18 and a UK citizen. Instead of registering at a permanent address, you can register at a temporary address.

You can also make a declaration of local connection. This is a statement that you make to the local electoral office to say where you spend the majority of your time.

Register to vote

Last updated: 9 June 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England