Help if you are homeless and have just left prison or a youth detention centre

The Council recognise that accessing suitable accommodation is a major factor in reducing re-offending for people who have been detained in prison or in a youth detention centre.

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Help finding housing before you are released

If you are serving a custodial sentence you will be invited to attend a resettlement assessment 12 weeks prior to your release.

At this assessment, the Resettlement Case Manager will discuss your accommodation needs.  Together with your Offender Manager they will help you to find relevant advice and guidance and they will make referrals to housing providers for you.

Housing options in South Gloucestershire

You can check what advice and options are available to you from the Council’s housing option service, HomeChoice by using their Housing Options Wizard.

If you are interested in joining the council’s housing register, so that you can apply for social housing, you must meet the qualification criteria set out in the council’s lettings policy.  If you qualify to join the register, a prison adviser or resettlement services support staff may be able to help you with your application.

If you don’t have a local connection with South Gloucestershire, but do elsewhere, you should check the website of that local authority for information on how to apply to them for housing.  Each authority has its own general rules and their website should set these out.

If you have no local connection anywhere, then you are able to apply to any local authority.

Many councils will have their own approach to accepting applications for social housing while someone is in custody.  Applicants should be in a position to start living in a property if one is offered, since properties are generally not held vacant before someone is able to live in them.  If you are unsure, ask for a copy of the housing policy.

Key advice on social housing

As part of your housing application you will need to give the following information:

  • your accommodation history, including whether you have any interest in any other properties
  • any savings
  • your health history
  • if you have any social care needs

Up to-date information is needed as this may influence your housing priority and what type of housing is suitable for you.

If you have special needs, this should be recorded on your housing application.

Social housing is in short supply and usually far more people apply for housing than properties become available.  It is not advisable to rely on social housing as a way of finding accommodation immediately following release.

Housing association may not consider applications for housing if you are not able to take up the accommodation available.  This is difficult if you are still in custody.  You should contact the housing association to find out what their policy is about this.

Help finding housing in the private rented sector

The HomeChoice service can advise you on how to find out what housing is available locally and how to apply for Universal Credit to help you with your housing costs.

Usually there are costs involved in securing a private tenancy, such as a deposit and/or rent in advance and so you should think about how you will cover these.

Help with money before you are released from prison

All prisoners are given a discharge grant paid for by the prison when they leave.  This is money to help with your costs until your benefits are sorted out.

If a prison housing adviser has found you accommodation for your first night, you may be given a higher discharge grant (about an extra £50), which is paid directly to the accommodation provider.

You may also be able to get help from South Gloucestershire Council’s local welfare assistance scheme with some costs for setting up a new home.

If you are about to be released from prison (within 56 days) and have nowhere to live you can ask your resettlement services provider to refer you to a local authority under their section 213B duty to refer.  This is to start a homelessness application.

Although you can approach any local authority, it is likely your application will be referred to a local authority that you have a local connection with, so it might be better for you to approach them first if this is the case.

You can read more information about the homelessness law in our homelessness leaflet

If you were recently released from prison and are homeless in South Gloucestershire

You can apply to South Gloucestershire Council, or any council, for housing assistance as a homeless person.

Help from South Gloucestershire Council

If you apply to South Gloucestershire Council for housing assistance because you are homeless, the council might not necessarily be legally obliged to provide you with accommodation.  The duty to you might be limited to providing you with advice and assistance and not actual accommodation.  To be legally obliged to provide you with accommodation we have to be satisfied that you are eligible, homeless, in priority need and that you have not made yourself intentionally homeless.

Priority need if you are single

The fact that you have been in prison does not in itself mean that we have to treat you as having a priority need because you are vulnerable.  The term vulnerable has a particular meaning for homelessness applications and is not the same as being labelled vulnerable in prison.

HomeChoice will need to assess your situation and be satisfied that you would be more at risk than other people if you were street homeless taking into account the time you have spent in prison.  Single people may also be considered vulnerable for other reasons, for example, because they have a mental illness or a learning or physical disability.  HomeChoice will take into account the time you have spent in prison when deciding how to treat you, even if it has been some time since you were released.

In some circumstances, they might decide you are in priority need because you have spent time in prison or on remand.  When considering this, they will look at

  • the length of time you spent in prison
  • if any third party support is being provided to you either by the probation service, a
    youth offending team, or drug and alcohol team
  • evidence provided by any third party (including any housing needs assessment)
  • about your homelessness vulnerability
  • the period of time since your release from prison and how successful you have been in finding your own accommodation and in keeping that accommodation
  • any third party support networks such as family, friends or a probation officer
  • evidence of any other vulnerability such as mental health problems, drug or alcohol misuse, or a history of having been in care
  • any other factors that might have an impact on your ability to find accommodation yourself

Contact HomeChoice to find out more about how they decide if you’re in priority need.

Prisoners and ex-offenders treated as intentionally homeless

HomeChoice can decide not to provide you with permanent accommodation if they consider that you made yourself intentionally homeless.  For example if you were evicted from your previous home because of criminal or antisocial behaviour or because you lost your accommodation resulting from your time in prison.  This includes if you gave up your tenancy or accommodation because your entitlement to benefits to cover your housing costs ended during a period in prison.

HomeChoice may take the view that you should have known that your criminal activity could have resulted in you being sent to prison, and that this could lead to the loss of your home.

If they decide you are intentionally homeless, they will only offer you limited help with finding housing.  If you are in priority need, you may be offered temporary accommodation for a short period of time so as to assist you to find your own accommodation in the private sector.

What area can you be housed in if you are homeless?

When you apply to South Gloucestershire Council as homeless, the HomeChoice service will check to see if you have a local connection with the area.  You can establish a local connection, for example, by living, working, or having immediate family (usually a parent, brother or sister, or adult child) in the area.

Time spent in prison in a specific area does not give you a local connection with the area where the prison is located.  However, if you have no local connection with any area or if you are at risk elsewhere, you can apply to any council in any area.

There may be restrictions placed on where you can live.  For example, if an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) says you can’t go to a particular area, you may need to seek help from a different council.

High risk prisoners managed by a Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangement (MAPPA) may be required to live in certain areas.  Applications for housing through this route are treated under a separate process.

Supported housing

You may be able to apply for short term supported accommodation such as a hostel. This accommodation is limited in South Gloucestershire and there is a waiting list so it is not an immediate option.  Your housing officer will help you to apply.  There are no direct access hostels in South Gloucestershire.

You can search the Homeless England directory to find hostels, emergency and longer term accommodation and day centres in your area.

Use Shelter’s directory or call Shelter’s free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444 to find services near you.

Homelessness help when on bail or Home Detention Curfew

If you are a low risk adult prisoner and eligible for release on bail or home detention curfew, but don’t have suitable accommodation to go to, you may be able to get help with supported accommodation through the bail accommodation and support scheme.

Find out more about the bail accommodation and support scheme (BASS) in the Government’s BASS Policy Framework.

Further information

You can also get information and advice from Shelter

If you need any help with understanding this information or wish to discuss your circumstances please contact HomeChoice.

If you are an ex-offender and have nowhere to stay, you should contact HomeChoice. The number if you are homeless is 01454 868005 or email