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Housing advice and homelessness

Housing Options

If you need help or advice on any housing issue within St Helens then we can help.

Whether you're a homeowner or tenant with problems with your existing home, or you are looking for a new home, we can point you in the right direction. Further information is available in the Housing Options Booklet or you can contact us (details below).

Every local authority (LA) has a duty to prevent homelessness, or to provide advice and assistance to people who are homeless or who are threatened with becoming homeless. We can provide you with the advice and information that you need, should you lose or be at risk of losing your accommodation. Here are some examples of scenarios in which we can provide assistance to prevent you becoming homeless:

  • Living with family members who have asked you to leave
  • Problems with your landlord or tenancy
  • Domestic violence
  • Violence or harassment from outside your home
  • Poor property conditions
  • Served notice to leave a property
  • Struggling with financial costs of your home
  • Relationship breakdown with a partner

As well as providing advice and assistance to homeless people, we also provide general housing advice and assistance to homeowners, tenants and landlords.

Homelessness Strategy 2018 -2023

The Homlessness Strategy sets out the council's vision for preventing and reducing homelessness in St Helens.

The Homeless Reduction Act, which came into effect on 1 April 2018, places new legal duties on English councils so that everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness will have access to meaningful help, irrespective of their priority need status, as long as they are eligible for assistance. The act amends part VII of the Housing Act 1996.

FIVE KEY CHANGES IN THE HOMELESS REDUCTION ACT

  1. IMPROVED ADVICE AND INFORMATION ABOUT HOMELESSNESS AND THE PREVENTION OF HOMELESSNESS

A review of the previous homeless legislation found that the advice and information provided to single homeless people needed to be much more effective. Under the Homeless Reduction Act everyone in a local authority’s district should be able to access free information and advice on:

  • Preventing homelessness
  • Securing accommodation when homeless
  • The rights of people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness and the duties of the authority
  • Any help that is available from the authority other agencies and charities
  • How to access that help

Advice and information should be designed to meet the needs of particular groups; for example care leavers, people suffering with a mental illness or impairment and any other groups as identified as being at risk of homelessness.

  1. EXTENDED THE PERIOD THREATENED WITH HOMELESSNESS

Under the previous legislation, an applicant was only assessed as threatened with homelessness if they were likely to become homeless within 28 days. Under the new legislation this period is extended.

The extension aims to encourage local authorities to act quickly and proactively and allows local authorities more time to prevent homelessness.

  1. DUTY TO ASSESS ALL ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS CASES AND AGREE A PERSONALISED HOUSING PLAN

The first step in the amended framework is for LAs, once they are satisfied that someone is homeless or threatened with homelessness and is also eligible for assistance, is to carry out an assessment of the applicant’s case.

These assessments should include the circumstances that have caused homelessness and what housing the applicant needs, what accommodation would be suitable and whether the applicant and their household need support to obtain and keep accommodation.

  1. PREVENTION DUTY IN CASES OF THREATENED WITH HOMELESSNESS

If an LA is satisfied someone is threatened with homelessness and is eligible regardless of local connection, the LA must take reasonable steps with regards to the assessment to help them avoid becoming homeless.

Once triggered, the prevention duty will continue for 56 days until it is brought to an end via one of the prescribed conditions i.e. they accept accommodation that has reasonable prospect of being available for at least six months.

Applicants have a right to request a review of a decision to end this duty.

RELIEF DUTY IN CASES WHERE THE APPLICANT IS HOMELESS

Under this clause the LA must take reasonable steps with reference to the applicant’s assessment to help all eligible applicants to secure accommodation for at least six months, unless the applicant is referred to another local authority due to having no local connection to the local authority they have applied to.

Once triggered, the relief duty will continue for a further 56 days unless it is brought to an end via one of the prescribed conditions.

Additionally, all people who are found to be homeless and in priority need will be provided interim accommodation. Assessments on vulnerability to determine priority need will not change under the new legislation; however, it may require LAs working closely with agencies to complete these assessments.

Applicants who have a priority need and were homeless unintentionally, and whose homelessness has not been successfully relieved after 56 days, will be owed the main housing duty unless they refuse to co-operate.

Applicants are owed a lesser accommodation duty if they are intentionally homeless.

  1. PUBLIC BODIES – DUTY TO REFER (see 'Duty to Refer' section below)

The Duty to Refer came into effect in October 2018.

Effective prevention and relief of homelessness requires public bodies to work together.

Where a public body considers that someone they are working with is or may be threatened with homelessness, they must, and only with the person's consent, refer to the local authority homeless team.

Homelessness - Care Leavers

Most young people who have been in care are entitled to help if they become homeless. The help you are entitled to usually depends on your age and personal circumstances.

The help you get mainly depends on your age:

- If you are a looked after child under the care of St Helens Council, the 'Children We Look After' team are responsible for finding you somewhere to live until you turn 18. You can contact this team or get in touch with your personal advisor on 01744 671241.

- If you are aged 18, 19 or 20 and a homeless care leaver, St Helens Council Housing Options and Advice Services must help with trying to secure alternative accommodation. You may be entitled to emergency housing from St Helens Council if you are considered to be in priority need. If you were a looked after child at any time when you were 16 or 17 and are now aged 18-20 you are likely to be in priority need.

- If you are a care leaver aged over 21 and homeless, there is no guarantee that the council will provide you with temporary accommodation but we will discuss your housing options with you and complete a personalised housing plan.

You can contact the Housing Options team on 01744 675150 to discuss your situation or email us at HousingAdvice+Options@sthelens.gov.uk

If you have not already done so and wish to be considered for social housing, you can register an application at www.u-1-r.co.uk.

Leaving hospital and nowhere to live?

If you are currently in hospital and have nowhere to live when you are fit to leave, you should tell the hospital nursing staff as soon as possible so they will know you don’t have anywhere to live when you are ready for discharge.

Alternatively, you can contact Housing Options directly to discuss your circumstances on 01744 675150 or email us at HousingAdvice+Options@sthelens.gov.uk.

Once the hospital staff or hospital discharge team become aware that you are homeless or at risk of homelessness within 56 days, they can, with your agreement, refer you to the Housing Options and Advice Services at the council of your choice for housing advice.

The housing options team can assess your situation and explore alternative accommodation options open to you upon discharge, including temporary accommodation provision in some situations. 

We don’t always have a duty to provide alternative accommodation but we will always explore your housing options with you. 

If there is a discharge planning meeting planned on the ward to discuss your situation, Housing Options and Advice Services will send a representative to provide advice wherever possible.

If you have a home already but it needs to be adapted to meet your individual needs, the hospital are likely to refer you to the occupational therapists team to discuss your requirements.

Any minor adaptations such as grab rails, walking frames etc may be provided by the hospital team; if more significant adaptations are needed, such as ramps, wet room adaptations etc, then they are likely to refer you to a community-based team to explore these options via Contact Cares. Contact Cares can be reached on 01744 676767.

If you have not already done so and wish to be considered for social housing, you can register an application at www.u-1-r.co.uk.

People leaving prison or youth detention centres

Always plan ahead for your release to have the best chance of not ending up homeless.

Housing advice and resettlement services – this service is often offered by staff from Shelter, who are based within a number of prisons in the North West.

Always try to see them before leaving prison to:

  • ask for advice;
  • see if they can make contact with St Helens Council on your behalf.  This is usually done via a 'duty to refer'.

If you have access to a computer, you can self refer to St Helens Housing Options: email HousingAdvice+Options@sthelens.gov.uk.

Once we are made of your situation we may also be able to arrange a phone interview with you while in prison.  This will be to assess your situation and provide advice.

Homeless

If you are at risk of having nowhere to stay on leaving prison please be aware that:

  • We do not have a duty to give everyone a temporary accommodation. We will try to arrange an emergency bed or provision to prevent you from having to sleep rough while other options are considered.
  • You will be asked a series of questions when you have your interview.  This is so we can assess your situation and help create a personalised housing plan.

If we are contacted before your release:

  • You can be given information and advice in a personal housing plan. This aims to help you find a place to stay when you leave prison.
  • It gives us time to:
    • Work out if there is any duty to give you a temporary place to stay when you leave prison;
    • Make referrals to other accommodation providers and hostels.

If you leave with nowhere to stay, please go in person to the Housing Options and Advice Service upon your release - 2nd Floor Millennium Centre. Opening times Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm, except Wed, 10am-5pm.

Outside of office hours, the emergency duty team can be contacted on 0845 050 0148.

  • If you think you will have to sleep on the street, tell the staff. They can refer you to the rough sleeping co-ordinator to see if they can help.
  • If you need support with anything else, tell the staff. They can tell you about other places that may offer help.

If you have not already done so and wish to be considered for social housing, you can register an application at www.u-1-r.co.uk.

You can contact our services yourself, through a support or social worker, family or friend, if you are at risk of homelessness within 56 days.

If you have nowhere to stay or no stable accommodation, do not hesitate to contact us. We will assess if you are owed any duty under which we will provide temporary accommodation.

To help with this, we will ask things like:

  • Where you are staying or sleeping if on the street?
  • What is your diagnosis?
  • What services you are currently working with and do you have proof of medication?

If temporary accommodation is not offered, these details will help us to draw up a personal housing plan. This will help to find a place for you to stay that meets your needs.

If you have not already done so and wish to be considered for social housing, you can register an application at www.u-1-r.co.uk.

Homelessness - ex-Armed Forces

If you're leaving the armed services, or you are a former member of the armed forces, you may be entitled to extra help if you become homeless.

Important advice

  • Get help with housing or apply as homeless before you're discharged
  • Check St Helens Council’s allocations policy

Homeless rights for ex-forces

You may qualify for help from the council if you are a former member of the armed forces and are homeless or threatened with homelessness. In addition, you will have to prove to the council that you are eligible for housing assistance, and have not made yourself intentionally homeless.

Subject to you satisfying these criteria, the council has to help you with both emergency and longer-term accommodation if it is accepted that you are homeless and in priority need for accommodation.

The council must consider if it can help you using both general rules that apply to everyone and special rules that apply to people who were in the forces.

General rules for people in priority need

It can be easier to get help if you qualify under the general rules for people in priority need, for example if you have dependent children or are pregnant.

The council should also look to see if you are vulnerable in some way. This may involve showing how a disability, mental health problem, addiction or other issue effects your ability to secure housing for yourself compared with other people who are homeless.

Extra homelessness rules for the Armed Forces

You should also be treated as being vulnerable and therefore in priority need for accommodation if you can show that your vulnerability is as a result of being a former member of the armed forces.

When deciding this, the council may consider:

  • how long you were in the forces and what role you had
  • if you spent any time in a military hospital
  • if you were released from service on medical grounds (and have a medical history release form)
  • if you have had accommodation since leaving service and if you have been able to obtain or maintain accommodation since you left
  • how long it has been since you left service

To help support your case, you may need to provide medical evidence from the Ministry of Defence, including a medical history release form (if you were given one). It can be hard to establish that you are vulnerable.

You may need to seek independent legal advice or help from a specialist agency to make representations on your behalf if this council decides that you do not meet the criteria set out above, and therefore it does not owe a duty to you to provide you with accommodation.

Re-housing in the area of your base

To be accepted as homeless in the local council area where you were based, you must be able to show that you have a local connection with the local council where your base was situated.

You may be able to show a local connection with that area if you:

  • currently work in the area
  • have lived in the area for six out of the last 12 months or three out of the last five years
  • live with a partner who currently works in the area

If you have left the forces and are not yet working for another employer in the area, you won't be able to show a local connection through working in the area. However, you may still be able to show that you have a local connection as the time you spent living or working in the area may still count.

You should also consider if you are able to show a local connection with this or another local council area where you have close family connections.

You don't need to have a local connection to apply to go on the 'Under One Roof' scheme if you are serving in the armed forces or left in the last five years.

Applying for homelessness before discharge from the forces

Contact the Housing Options and Advice Service if you think you will be homeless after discharge from the services. The council should not wait until you are made homeless before it helps you.

Upon the production of a letter of discharge or some other evidence that confirms the date of your discharge from the forces, the council should accept that from the date of discharge you will become homeless.

In the event that you have not sought any housing assistance from this council before your discharge from the forces, you may need to stay in your accommodation as long as possible and wait for Defence Estates to evict you.

Defence Estates have to give you a 'notice to vacate' before they can take you to court in order that they can obtain a possession order. You can use any notice to vacate and any possession order that is obtained against you as evidence in support of your homelessness application.

Ex-forces and single, homeless and on the streets

Many single homeless people don't qualify for help from the council or any other local authority.

There are a range of services for people who find themselves homeless and on the streets, for example:

- Some places may provide a source of practical support e.g. they provide a warm place to stay during the day and food, clothing, laundry facilities and showers. However, such places may be limited in St Helens at different times of the year – but it is worth asking the housing options team for more information.

- The Royal British Legion might be able to help with a rent deposit – visit www.britishlegion.org.uk.

The Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association (SSAFA) provides housing advice to people currently serving in the forces and ex-services personnel and their families. Visit www.ssafa.org.uk.

If you are not in St Helens at the moment, you may use the Homeless England directory to find details of other day centres and hostels across the UK. This is at www.homeless.org.uk.

Homeless after dishonourable discharge

The council may not have a duty to help you if you are homeless after being discharged on disciplinary grounds from the UK armed forces.

If you have not already done so and wish to be considered for social housing, you can register an application at www.u-1-r.co.uk.

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2018 places a duty on public authorities to notify a local authority of service users they consider may be homeless or threatened with homelessness (i.e. it is likely they will become homeless within 56 days).

Before making a referral, a public authority must:

  • have consent to the referral from the individual;
  • allow the individual to identify the housing authority in England that they would like the notification to be made to; and,
  • have consent from the individual that their contact details can be supplied so the housing authority can contact them regarding the referral.

The public authorities that are subject to the duty to refer are specified in the Homelessness (Review Procedure etc.) Regulations 2018. The public services included in the duty are as follows:

  • prisons;
  • youth offender institutions;
  • secure training centres;
  • secure colleges;
  • youth offending teams;
  • probation services (including community rehabilitation companies);
  • Jobcentre Plus;
  • social service authorities;
  • emergency departments;
  • urgent treatment centres; and
  • hospitals in their function of providing inpatient care.

If you believe you need to refer a client to Housing Options then please complete the referral below and send to dutytorefer@sthelens.gov.uk and we will respond in due course.

Duty to Refer referral form

Rough sleeping is the most severe form of homelessness. If you've seen someone sleeping rough or who may need our support in St.Helens, please contact us.  

We need the location, a basic description together with the date and time. Alternatively, report via Street Link.

Telephone 01744 675150 - Housing Options & Advice Team (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm / Wednesday 10.00am to 5.00pm)

0845 0500148 - St Helens & Halton Council Emergency Duty Team (Emergency advice or assistance outside office hours)

Call in Person Housing Options and Advice Team, 2nd Floor Millennium Centre, Corporation Street, St Helens (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm/ Wednesday 10.00am to 5.00pm)

Write to us Housing Option and Advice Team, 2nd Floor Millennium Centre, Corporation Street, St Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1HJ

Email HousingAdvice+Options@sthelens.gov.uk