Many of us think of homeless people as 'rough sleepers' - people who sleep in the open air or places not made to be lived in (like cars or building entrances).
In fact anyone who is having to leave their current home and has nowhere else to live can be considered homeless.
There are many reasons why a person might find themselves with nowhere to live, perhaps because they have lost their job, because they are being evicted, because of sudden ill-health, or because a relationship has broken down.
You might not see yourself as homeless if you've got somewhere to stay in the short-term, but if you don't have a more permanent place to live in the longer-term you will need to start planning for the future.
If you suddenly find yourself with nowhere to live you may be eligible for a home from your local council. See our page on Local authority housing for more details.
You may also be able to find accommodation in the private rented sector.
If you are homeless and / or at risk of having to sleep on the streets (known as rough sleeping) then your local council offers advice on what to do.
Kensington and Chelsea
Kensington and Chelsea council's website offers the following advice on homelessness:-
Nucleus offer confidential and free legal advice and assistance to people living in Kensington and Chelsea on a variety of issues, including on housing issues.
Westminster council's website offers advice on homelessness.
If you are concerned about a rough sleeper or find yourself in a vulnerable position and at risk of sleeping on the street you can contact Westminster's Rough Sleeping Helpline on tel 020 7641 5021.
If you would like to receive independent advice on housing, or on benefits, legal issues, accessing care and support, your rights as a carer, and a range of other issues, then you can contact Citizens Advice Westminster.
Hostels (or shelters) and housing projects provide a temporary place to stay for people who have nowhere else to stay. For many people they are the first step out of homelessness. Hostels vary widely in their services, some offering more support than others.
A number of hostels will ask for payment to stay there and some will ask for additional payments for food.
Nightshelters on the other hand tend to be free places to stay on a temporary basis. They often offer little more than a bed to sleep in indoors and tend to be constructed inside churches and schools when there is a particular need for emergency accommodation (such as during the winter).
There are various hostels, shelters and housing projects in London which can offer accommodation if you find yourself with nowhere to live.
Some hostels will, subject to availability, offer you accommodation if you turn up. Other hostels and housing projects will require a referral from another organisation, perhaps a council or a charity, in order to offer you support. If a hostel requires a referral it should be able to tell you who to approach in order to request the referral.
Some hostels and housing projects provide specialist support to people who are particularly vulnerable to homelessness, for example because they have problems with alcohol or substance misuse, or because they have mental health problems.
Homeless UK provides a searchable directory of hostels and housing projects available in the London area. In order to help you to find the right services quickly they have broken down the types of accommodation available as follows:-
For people who urgently need accommodation
- Quick access - Short stay hostels for homeless people needing emergency accommodation. Often for people sleeping rough. May take self referrals but usually only accept referrals from specialist agencies working with rough sleepers and homeless people.
- Nightstop - For young homeless people usually aged 16-25. Very short stay (3-5 nights). A bedroom in the home of a volunteer host. May accept self referrals but often only take referrals from specific agencies.
- Winter shelter - Basic emergency accommodation available in winter. Often in church halls. Some accept self referrals but others only take referrals from specific agencies.
Second stage accommodation
Other projects for homeless people (often those moving on from first stage emergency accommodation).
- Foyer - For young people (usually aged 16-25) who need the support offered around employment, education and training.
- Housing scheme - Accommodation in shared houses or self contained flats with regular staff visits for people who need low to medium levles of support to live independently.
- Low support - Hostels for people who only need a low level of support with daily living skills. Staff may be on site or may visit regularly.
- Medium support - For homeless people who need a medium level of support with daily living skills. Staff are usually based on site.
- Supportive - For homeless people who need a high level of support and are unable to live independently.
For people with specific support needs as well as housing needs.
- Alcohol and drugs - For people with alcohol or drug problems. Most projects are "dry" where alcohol is banned, but some "wet" alcohol projects allow drinking.
- Ex-offenders - For people with a history of offending or who are at risk of offending.
- Mental health - For people who have mental health problems.
- Working people - For people who are in employment and have no or very low support needs.
There are various projects and services which may be able to offer food and meals if you find yourself homeless and hungry.
The Trussell Trust foodbanks provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in the UK. In some areas they will only provide food following a referral from a health or social care professional - check your local food bank for details.
Foodbanks in the local area include:
FoodCycle is a UK charity that combines volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen spaces to create tasty, nutritious meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.
The Food Chain exists to ensure people living with HIV in London can access the nutrition they need to get well, stay well and lead healthy, independent lives.
They deliver meals and groceries, offer cookery and nutrition classes and communal eating opportunities to people living with HIV in London and their dependents.
Support in Westminster
The North Paddington Foodbank uses cash and food donations from businesses and ordinary people to provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in North Paddington.
Support in Kensington and Chelsea
The following venues may be able to offer emergency meals:-
If you think you want legal advice in relation to a housing or homelessness issue then you can get more information on our Obtaining legal advice page.
Shelter can provide advice on all aspects of housing and homelessness including a searchable directory of local organisations which can offer advice.
They also have a telephone advice line which is contactable every day of the week.
Street Link help people who are sleeping rough to link in with support services, and offer advice if you are worried about someone else who is sleeping rough.
Homeless UK provide advice on what to do if you are homeless, including suggestions for how to find hostels and other emergency accommodation.
Missing People supports the 250,000 people who run away and go missing each year in the UK. The organisation helps people and their families to explore their options and, where possible, to reconnect.