Being homeless is dangerous, stressful, bad for your health and stops you getting on with your life - know how to avoid it
Young woman sat in front of a crumbling brick wall

Most children and young people live with their parents or carers. There are benefits available to help parents afford this.

If a child can't stay in the family home, they should have a safe space to stay. Some children stay with relatives or friends at times. Any place you are staying should be:

  • Suitable for children and safe
  • Supporting you to stay in learning until you are 18
  • Agreed with your parents or carers

If this is not possible you need to get the best advice right away.

Take action: Find information from Childline about what to do if you are thinking about running away from home.  

In a housing crisis?

If you are homeless or about to be homeless:

Somewhere to stay

If there is a risk you might need to leave home you need to make an emergency plan. Most young people in this situation 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

Crucial: If you think you might need to stay with someone, always talk it over with them first. It can also help to talk it through with an adult, like a school health nurse.

Sort out housing problems:

You need to make plans for where you will live. This is important for your future. 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 on 0808 800 4444.

Crucial: If you can't phone for help, for example if you are out of credit or battery, you can get help from the police, school, and any shop showing the Safe Places logo.

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 do get stuck out overnight:

  • Keep warm Even in summer, your risk of getting exposure or hypothermia is high. Keep off the ground and find shelter.
  • Don't drink or take drugs You may be encouraged to do so, but this will make you more vulnerable.
  • Keep alert Rough sleepers are targets for assault and abuse, and some people may offer to help and then abuse you.
  • 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 and alcohol abuse. Aim to stop being homeless as soon as possible.

My Experience: ‘I tried to avoid being homeless’

'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. 

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

Help someone who is sleeping rough

If you find out that someone is sleeping rough, or see someone sleeping in the street, then you can act to help them get the support they need.

  1. Go to www.streetlink.org.uk or call Streetlink on 0300 500 0914
  2. Give as much detail as you can about the person who is sleeping rough - you don't need a name, just a location and a description.
  3. Streetlink will contact the local street outreach team who will find the person and offer support. 

Not everyone will be ready to be helped right away. But street outreach teams are experts in safely engaging with homeless people, gaining their trust, and linking them up with the support services they need.

 Crucial: If you believe the person sleeping rough is a child (under 18) then call the police right away on 999. 

Find out more


Posted by Sharon Hall
Posted ago
I have an urgent problem with a young person at risk of being homeless what should I do?

Hello, thanks for leaving this comment, I have edited it to remove the personal information as this is a public website.

For a young person aged 18+:

1. Call Shelterline for advice on 0808 800 4444 - you can also chat online at https://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help if you would prefer not to talk on the phone

2. Contact your local Housing department to explain that there is someone at risk of being homeless (the young person can also do this themselves). You can find contact details on your local District or City Council website.

3. Talk to your local Citizens Advice Bureau or another local Housing or homelessness advice centre or charity for independent advice.

For young people under 18

If the child is aged under 18, then you must report to them as a child at risk of homelessness to Children's Services. They will work with the family and the child to ensure that the child is not left homeless. In Oxfordshire, the reporting route is via MASH on 0345 050 7666.

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