Sleeping on the streets

If you are sleeping on the streets, contact your local council for help.

If the council won’t help then call Shelter Cymru’s housing advice helpline.

Sleeping on the streets can be dangerous and should only be done as a last resort. The page below has practical advice about where to go and what to do if you have no choice but to sleep rough.

Where to get help

StreetLink
If you are a rough sleeper, StreetLink will be able to put you in contact with help in your area. Go to their website or phone them on 0300 500 0914:

Street-Link-Primary-Logo-With-Strapline

If you are concerned about someone sleeping on the streets, you can also contact StreetLink who will help to connect them to local services and support.

Telephone advice
You can get advice from:

  • Shelter Cymru’s expert helpline – call 0345 075 5005  (9.30am–4pm, Mon-Fri)
  • Shelter – call 0808 800 4444 (8am-8pm Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm Sat-Sun)
  • Crisis – if you are in South Wales call 01792 674900 for advice on support and training
  • The Mix – advice for young people under 25.  Call 0808 808 4994 (freephone 11am-11pm every day), email, or live chat. They can support you and talk through your options. Or you can use their directory to find housing advice organisations in your area.
  • If you are a woman experiencing domestic abuse you can call the Live Fear Free confidential 24 hour free helpline on 0808 80 10 800.

Day centres
Day centres are places that people sleeping on the streets can go to during the day. People who have left the streets can also use them for activities and companionship even if they are living in their own homes.

The services provided by each day centre vary, as do their opening times. Most do not open at weekends or in the evening. Generally, day centres provide:

  • cheap or free food
  • laundry room
  • washing facilities
  • activities
  • advice on finding accommodation and benefits
  • access to medical treatment

Soup runs
In some areas, agencies distribute free food and drinks to people sleeping on the streets. They usually visit certain areas at specific times of the evening and/or early morning.

Outreach teams
Not all areas have outreach teams. In some areas, they are known as Contact and Assessment Teams (CATs). Some areas have outreach teams attached to day centres. They work on the street. They advise people how to find accommodation and may help them to get it. They can also help with claiming benefits.

Hostels and nightshelters
Hostels and nightshelters provide housing for people sleeping on the streets.

Some hostels will accept people who turn up at the door. Other hostels need a referral from an agency. This could be a day centre or an outreach team. Vacancies fill quickly and once the hostel is full, people are turned away.

Most hostels provide:

  • meals or cooking facilities
  • laundry room
  • washing facilities
  • games/TV room.

You have to pay to stay in a hostel, but staff usually help you apply for benefits.

Night shelters are usually free. They are generally for short stays, usually a few days. People normally have to leave in the morning and can’t return until the evening.

Staying safe

Sleeping on the streets can be dangerous. It should only be done as a last resort if there is absolutely no other option available. If you have no choice but to sleep on the streets, it’s important to find ways to stay safe and warm.

Have a look at our 10 Top Tips for staying safe on the streets.

Health

You can register with a doctor even if you don’t have a permanent address. If you can’t get an appointment with a doctor, NHS walk-in centres can provide emergency treatment for minor injuries and illnesses. Use the NHS Direct Wales website to find your nearest walk-in centre or details of other local NHS services.

There are also health care services just for homeless people. Contact your nearest Shelter Cymru advice centre for details of the services available in your local area.

Health service staff, such as nurses, opticians, dentists and doctors also visit day centres and offer check ups and treatment.

Over Christmas you might be able to get health care services from Crisis Skylight if you are in South Wales.

Benefits and working

Even if you don’t have an address, you can still claim benefits. Take a look at our page on Your rights if you are homeless for more advice on how to claim.

Many agencies that help people sleeping on the streets have staff that know about benefits. They will be able to tell you which benefit to claim and help you to claim it.

If you need money in an emergency, you may be able to apply to the Discretionary Assistance Fund. See our page on cash in a crisis for more information.

Work and training
People sleeping on the streets may find it harder to stay in work or to get a job.

Jobcentre Plus should help you to look for work even if you are sleeping rough. You may have to be actively seeking work in order to claim benefits.

Some agencies have staff to help people sleeping on the streets look for work, and some have training schemes. Day centre and hostel staff may be able to help you find paid work. If you are a homeless person, you may be able to get work selling the Big Issue Cymru magazine.

Keeping in touch

People sleeping on the streets may lose touch with friends and family if they are moving from place to place. At the same time, friends and family may need to get in contact. Ways of keeping in touch include:

  • through outreach teams
  • ring the Missing People Helpline text 116 000, or email 116000@missingpeople.org.uk  (You can text even if you have no credit left on your mobile phone)
  • cheap internet access is offered by most public libraries and internet cafes if you want to send and receive emails
  • some day centres will accept mail on behalf of people sleeping on the streets who use the day centre on a regular basis
  • the Big Issue Cymru.

Meals

Day centres offer cheap meals for homeless people, usually breakfast and lunch.

Soup runs are food projects often provided by charities and faith groups in larger towns and cities. They provide free hot or cold food and drinks for homeless people.

A homelessness outreach worker, day centre or advice centre may be able to help you with a referral to a food bank.

Find your nearest food bank on the Trussell Trust website.

Belongings

If you are worried about your belongings, some day centres can store them for you.

Pets

If you have a pet, you may be able to get free or cheap treatment through an animal charity. You may have to provide proof that you are claiming benefits and that you have nowhere permanent to live.

Veterinary charity PDSA has a free national helpline that you can call to find out whether you are eligible for their free services – call 0800 731 2502, or use their website to check your eligibility.

The Dogs Trust Hope Project can provide free vet treatment to dogs whose owners are homeless or in housing crisis. Their website also has a search tool to find hostels that accepts dogs. Many hostels don’t accept pets so it is always best to check before you go there.

Moving on

Staff in hostels and night shelters might know of agencies that can provide help and move on accommodation.

They might be able to help you draw up a plan to sort out your:

  • health
  • work
  • training
  • housing.

Move on accommodation is for people who have left the streets while they find somewhere permanent or long term to live. The type of accommodation and how to get it varies.  It may be a self-contained flat within a hostel – or it can be a self-contained flat away from the hostel. A support worker should visit regularly to see if you are having any problems managing the responsibility of your own home.

When you are ready to live independently, the staff may contact a council or housing association to help find accommodation. You might be able to apply to the council as homeless.

If the council can’t help, the support worker may be able to help you move into private rented accommodation. Some homeless agencies can help pay for a deposit or rent in advance or may have links with other agencies that can help in finding somewhere to live.

It can take a long time to prepare to live in long term housing.

Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
0345 075 5005

Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.

This page was last updated on: October 17, 2019

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.