Homeless people's rights
Homeless people still have rights. You may have rights to get help from the council's housing and social work departments. In addition, you will not lose your rights to claim benefits, access medical help, or vote, if you become homeless.
Help from the housing department
Local councils have specific legal duties towards homeless people.
Advice and assistance
The council has to provide advice and assistance to anyone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness and who approaches the council for help.
If you make a homeless application to the council, it has a duty to provide you with temporary accommodation while it investigates your circumstances and decides if it has a duty to offer you permanent accommodation.
If you are entitled to permanent accommodation, you can stay in your temporary accommodation until the council has found you a home. If you are not entitled to permanent accommodation, you should be allowed to stay in your temporary accommodation to give you time to find a new place to live yourself. The council should offer you advice and help to do this.
Help from the social work department
The council's social work department sometimes has duties to help certain groups of people who become homeless. These groups include:
some young people aged under 18
some care leavers or young people about to leave care
people with disabilities
people with mental health problems
Social work may be able to help families with children but they are not legally obliged to provide accommodation where everyone can live together.
Can I claim benefits?
If you are homeless you are still entitled to claim benefits. If your benefits are paid directly into your bank or post office account, this will continue. If not, you may be able to collect benefit cheques from your nearest Jobcentre Plus office. Contact your local office to arrange this.
If you are claiming benefits for the first time and you do not have a bank account, you may be able to open an account with the Post Office if you have a forwarding address or an address 'care of' a friend, relative or day centre. If you do not have an address, you should be able to arrange to collect a cheque from your nearest DWP or Jobcentre Plus office.
If you are in a crisis situation, you may also be able to apply for a crisis loan to cover emergency expenses, although you will have to pay this loan back. Whether or not loans are given depends on your situation and the amount of money in the DWP budget.
Can I register with a doctor?
If you are homeless, you are still entitled to register with a doctor. You can do so using a temporary address, such as a friend's place or a day centre. You can find a doctor in your area by:
using the Yellow Pages
calling NHS 24 on 08454 24 24 24
visiting the NHS Scotland website
calling the NHS Scotland helpline on 0800 22 44 88.
There are also specialist medical centres for people who are homeless or roofless (sleeping rough).
Can I vote?
If you are homeless, you are still entitled to vote, provided you are over 18 and a UK citizen. Instead of registering at a permanent address, you can register at a temporary address or by making 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.
What if I'm under 18?
If you are 16 or over you have the right to:
claim some benefits
apply for a home from the council or a housing association
rent property from a private landlord
apply to the council as homeless.
However, some of the rules regarding accommodation and benefits are different. For example:
Some care leavers and young people under 18 are legally entitled to help from the social work department. The page on help from social work has more information on this.
If you are under 35 and do not have children, the level of benefits that you will be entitled to will be lower than if you were over 35. In some circumstances you will only be entitled to housing benefit for a single room rather than a flat or a house. The page on benefits for 16 and 17-year-olds has more on this.
What if I have lived abroad?
People who have lived abroad may have different rights depending on their particular circumstances. If you have lived abroad, whether you are eligible for help will depend on:
when you entered the country
the purpose of your stay
whether you are seeking asylum
whether you are a European Union national.
Last updated: 9 April 2018
Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
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