How can I stop sofa-surfing and find a home of my own?

I left local authority care when I was 17 and since then I've been living with friends, in hostels and I've been in and out of prison. I also had some problems with drugs but although I was on heroin I've been clean for two years. I've now sorted out a lot of my problems but I'm living with a friend in her front room. I can't really go on doing this much longer and although I've signed up to a letting scheme, I've been told it can take years to get my own place. Is there anywhere else I can go to find housing? It's so cramped at my friends and I desperately need my own space.

Finding a home can be very difficult due to the high cost of housing and your options may be limited by how much you can afford. Councils or housing associations are generally the most affordable housing. But they are not always easy to get and you have to make an application to get help.

If you’re staying at a friend’s house and they’ve told you to go, you could apply as homeless to the council. In your case, you could also apply as homeless because your home is unsuitable for you. Even though you have somewhere to live at the moment, you may be able to show that it’s not reasonable for you to stay there any longer.

Applying as homeless is not the same as putting your name on the waiting list for a permanent council home. Make sure the person you speak to understands you need help immediately because you are homeless but that you want to stay on the waiting list as well.

If you are homeless your local council may have a specific legal duty to help you. What help the council has to offer will depend upon your circumstances.

Some people who are classed as homeless are entitled to accommodation from the local council. You are entitled to emergency accommodation if you are:

  • Eligible for assistance;
  • Legally classed as homeless;
  • In priority need.

In your case the council may decide that you are a priority to be housed because of your history of being in care and the problems you have had with drugs. If the council owe you a duty as a homeless person then they should find accommodation for you as soon as possible. They may place you in temporary housing until something more settled becomes available.

You might benefit from getting help at a local advice centre. An adviser would be able to help you deal with the council and get them to offer you more assistance or accommodation. They would also be able help you challenge any decisions the council have made that you think are unfair.

Hostels could be another option for you. Some hostels are direct access; you turn up at the door when they open to see if they have any vacancies. But other hostels ask for a referral from an agency, such as a day centre or an outreach team. There are not normally enough places for everyone who needs one. You may need proof of income and a form of ID before you can stay. If you do not have either, the staff should be able to help you get them. You might not be able to stay until you have them.

Some parts of the country have foyers for young people. These are places that provide housing for young people and help with education, training and finding work. Most foyers have a waiting list. You can apply directly to some foyers but for others you’ll need to arrange a place through an emergency hostel, the council or an advice centre.

You may be able to find a place to live through a local lodgings scheme. These schemes are usually run by the council or a local advice centre and can put you in contact with someone who has a spare room that they are willing to rent out.

Alternatively, you can consider renting privately. Most landlords ask new tenants to pay a month’s rent in advance. If you can’t afford it you may be able to apply for an interest-free loan from the social fund. You may be able to get a budgeting loans or money from your council. If you get one you will have to pay it back. These loans are discretionary so the council don’t have to give you one.

In addition, your local council may run a rent deposit scheme or have details of one that operates in your area. These local schemes can provide deposits, rent guarantees, or bonds to help people overcome the need for rent in advance or a deposit when seeking housing.

Answered by Shelter on 06-Mar-2014

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