What are my rights as someone sleeping rough?

man on computer - What are my rights as someone sleeping rough?
There are lots of barriers to accessing your rights when sleeping rough. We're here to help you.

Sleeping rough is a very scary situation to be in or at risk of. While it can feel dehumanising, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost your rights.

Knowing what these rights are can be helpful in finding support and continuing to live with dignity while experiencing homelessness.

If you’re sleeping rough, you’re still entitled to:

Help from your local council

If you find yourself at risk of, or are currently experiencing, homelessness the first thing you should do is reach out to your local council.

Once you do this, your council will ask you about your situation to see if you are considered ‘legally homeless’.

This can apply to many people, not just those sleeping rough.

For example, living on a friend’s sofa, facing eviction or living in an unsafe home (e.g. with an abusive family member) would all qualify you for receiving support from your local council.

If you are found to be ‘legally homeless’ the council will have a duty to support you. This means they have to offer support that would let you leave your current living situation for temporary or permanent housing.

The accommodation offered by the council also has to be accessible and safe for you. For example, if you use a wheelchair, the housing they offer you might have wheelchair ramps, lifts in communal areas and accessible bathrooms.

If the council reject your application for help with homelessness, you have the right to appeal their decision or you could seek out support from a local charity instead.

It’s also important to remember that some people are not entitled to support from the council. For example, your immigration status may affect what support you’re entitled to. You can check if you’re able to access government support with your local council.

If you are not eligible for support from your local council, homeless charities like The Connection may be able to support you instead.

Financial support

Even if you don’t have a home, you can still access financial support.

This includes Universal Credit and housing benefits. These do not have to be paid back and can be used on anything you like (but it’s recommended to use this money for improving your living situation where possible).

But accessing this support can be tricky. To apply for Universal Credit, you’ll need:

  • A bank account
  • An email address or phone number
  • ID e.g. a passport or driving license
  • An address (this doesn’t have to be somewhere you live, it can be a day centre you visit or a hostel you’re staying in)
  • Homelessness services, like The Connection, can offer help to apply for financial support. You can also reach out to Citizen’s Advice through their ‘Help to Claim’ service.

    Your right to vote

    Voting might not seem like the biggest priority to someone facing homelessness but having your say in key issues can help restore your autonomy and boost your self-esteem, especially during an election year.

    It also means you can vote on issues that affect you, like laws around rough sleeping.

    Any British citizen over 18 can vote in the UK. Some EU citizens also have the right to vote in UK elections.

    To vote, you have to join the voting register. This is quick to do. Again, you’ll need to enter an address but this doesn’t have to be somewhere you live. As long as you often visit this location and can access mail here, you can use it as your address.

    Before applying to vote, you will need to make sure you have ID or a Voter Authority Certificate. Homelessness services can help you with this too.

    What are my rights as someone sleeping rough?

    If you find yourself without a home, remember:

  • Your local council is there to help you find a place to stay.
  • You can get help with money for things you need.
  • You can still vote and have a say in important decisions.
  • It’s really hard not having a home, but there’s help out there. Knowing your rights means you can get the support you need to make things better. And always remember, there are people ready to help you every step of the way.

    So while it can be tricky to access these rights while facing homelessness, The Connection is here to help and make the process as simple as possible.