Being homeless is dangerous, stressful, bad for your health and stops you getting on with your life - know how to avoid it

Every year, some young people end up without a home. Every situation is different, but the most common reasons are that they:

  • run away after an argument or getting into trouble
  • are told to leave by parents or carers
  • have to move suddenly and can't get another house in time
  • run away to escape abuse.

If you have to leave home and aren't sure where you're going, you need to get the best advice right away.

This Video from Shelter UK explains the housing rights of 16-17s.

Rights of homeless 16-17 year olds | Shelter

Somewhere to stay

Some young people feel that they are unable to stay in their family home, but can't afford a place of their own. If there is a risk you might need to leave home, make an emergency plan. Most young people in this situation plan to stay with relatives or trusted friends. This is a good option because:

  • it is safe
  • you're with people you know and trust
  • there are more people to help you sort out the problem

But this is not a long-term solution. You will be a guest in someone else's house. To make sure things run smoothly, be considerate and try to contribute to the household as much as possible.You may not have to pay for your room, but you can still offer to help out around the house. Babysitting, washing up, and cleaning are some ways to help.

Crucial: If you think you might need to stay with someone, try and talk it over with them first.

You also should be planning a long-term solution. This can be hard work, but housing groups like Banbury Young Homeless Project, Connections Floating Support, and Crisis Skylight Oxford can help. 

You can also get support online or over the phone:

  • The Runaway Helpline is free, confidential, and 24/7. Call or text 116 000 they'll listen and offer support, not judge or tell you what to do.
  • Childline can talk to you over the phone free and confidential 24/7, 0800 11 11 or get support through 1-2-1 chat with a ChildLine counsellor online.
  • Call Shelter's hotline (M-F 8-8, S-Su 8-5) on 0808 800 4444.

In a housing crisis?

  • If you are homeless or about to be homeless: start by contacting Shelter's hotline (0808 800 4444) and your local council.
  • If you are or have been in care: contact social and health care.
  • Take advice and make positive steps to end the crisis.

Avoid sleeping rough

Don't sleep rough. Plenty of organisations can help you avoid this. Sleeping rough damages your health and exposes you to danger. Phone Shelter's hotline (0808 800 4444) to find an organisation that can help. If you absolutely feel you must:

  • Keep warm Wear layers to keep warm, even in summer, and don't sleep directly on the ground. Your risk of getting exposure or hypothermia is high, especially if you are drinking or taking drugs.
  • Keep alert All rough sleepers are targets for assault and abuse, including young people, those new to being homeless, women, and young men and girls.
  • Keep looking for help At this point in time, nothing matters more than getting off the streets. Go to every advice centre you can find, follow their advice and get off the streets.

Homelessness is bad for you. It's hard to keep relationships or stay healthy. You are at high risk of financial or sexual exploitation. You run a big risk of health problems like infections, depression and drug abuse. Aim to stop being homeless as soon as possible.

My Experience: ‘I tried to avoid being homeless’

‘We spoke to a housing officer, someone who deals with homelessness. I was thinking hopefully they’ll help me. But the interview didn’t go well; they told me that they couldn’t help me because I didn’t meet their criteria. There weren’t funds for me to go back to the B+B, so I had to sleep in a tent. I never thought about sleeping rough, it doesn’t seem like a good situation to be in.’


'At last my referral went through and I got a phone call asking me to go for an interview. They asked me all sorts of things: name, address, had I been to prison, did I use drugs, things like that. I had no problems answering the questions because I’ve got nothing to hide. Basically, they offered me a bed there, and I accepted. 


The service assigns you a key worker who can work with you to get what you want, help you get a job or get onto a course. You also agree to do certain things, e.g. if you make appointments at the Job Centre, you have to turn up for them. There’s always staff there, if you need someone to talk to, 24/7, even if it’s not your key worker.


At first it was very intense because I’d never really been in that sort of situation, but gradually over the last few weeks I’ve settled in. I’ve started to make a few friends. Things are going better, and I’m going back to college in the autumn to study hairdressing, I’ve got some voluntary work doing flyering, things like that.’ – Ashley, 19

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