Sleeping on the streets
If you are sleeping on the streets, there is help available.
Sleeping on the streets can be dangerous and should only be done as a last resort. It’s important to try and stay safe – have a look at our Ten Top Tips for staying safe.
Where to get help
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:
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.
You can get expert telephone advice from:
- Shelter Cymru – call 0345 075 5005 (9.30am – 4pm, Mon – Fri). Staff at the helpline can give you immediate advice.
- Shelter – call 0808 800 4444 (8am to 8pm Mon – Fri, 9am to 5pm at weekends)
- Crisis – if you are in South Wales call 01792 674900 for advice on support and training
- The Mix – gives 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 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
- advice on finding accommodation and benefits
- access to medical treatment
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.
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.
Most hostels and night shelters do not accept pets. If you have a pet and you are trying to get into emergency accommodation, you will need to check to see if they accept pets.
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.
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:
- Get a hot meal, shower and clean clothes during the day at a day centre for homeless people.
- At night, keep to quiet well-lit areas, near to other people if possible. You may be moved on or hassled in busy public places.
- Stay in a place where homelessness outreach teams visit with food and blankets. For example, near a day centre or cold weather shelter.
- Stay under cover or in some form of shelter in case of bad weather.
- Wear lots of layers of clothing.
- Hot food and drink can help you stay warm, so try to eat or drink something hot before going to sleep. A soup run could provide you with free food.
- Alcohol can dehydrate you – try to avoid it before sleeping.
- Use something to create a barrier between yourself and the ground, such as a sheet, blanket, cardboard or newspaper.
- Find a safe place for valuables. Try to store these at a day centre. It’s safer than keeping them with you.
Download our ‘Staying safe on the streets : 10 Top Tips’ from our free resources page.
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 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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.
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.
If you are worried about your belongings, some day centres can store them for you.
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.
Most hostels will not accept pets. It is best to check in advance.
Benefits and working
Even if you don’t have an address, you can still claim benefits, so long as you meet the normal entitlement rules.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) pays benefits to people who are out of work. These include jobseekers allowance and income support. If you are unable to work because of illness or disability there are other benefits available, such as employment support allowance (ESA). Many benefits are claimed through Jobcentre Plus. Their advisers can also help you to find work and with money for travel expenses for interviews. Find your nearest Jobcentre Plus on Gov.uk.
The rules on benefits are complicated. It is a good idea to get advice about making a 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 still help you to look for work. It may be a requirement of claiming benefit that you are actively seeking work. If you are disabled, this may not apply to you.
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.
Moving off the streets
If you want to move off the streets the first step is to find out what services are available in your area. In most cities and large towns, there are specialist agencies to help people sleeping on the streets. These could help you to get emergency, temporary or long-term accommodation.
Use the Streetlink website or call 0300 500 0914 to make contact with services in your area:
Once you have a place in a hostel, staff may assess your particular situation to see if you have any specific needs. You may need medical care, counselling or help with claiming benefits. They may also work for, or know of, agencies that can provide help and move on accommodation.
The length of your stay in a hostel will vary. Some hostels have a maximum stay of one month. Other hostels may let residents stay for six months or longer.
A hostel worker may help you to draw up a plan to sort out your:
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.