Many of us think of homeless people as rough sleepers - people who sleep in the open air or places not made to be lived in (like cars or building entrances). In fact anyone who is having to leave their current home and has nowhere else to live can be considered homeless.
There are many reasons why a person might find themselves with nowhere to live, perhaps because they have lost their job, because they are being evicted, because of sudden ill health, or because a relationship has broken down.
You might not see yourself as homeless if you have somewhere to stay in the short term, but if you don't have a more permanent place to live in the longer term you will need to start planning for the future.
What to do if you find yourself with nowhere to live
If you suddenly find yourself with nowhere to live you may be eligible for a home from your local council. See our page on local authority housing for more details. You may also be eligible for housing with a housing association. Alternatively you may also be able to find accommodation in the private rented sector.
Hostels and housing projects
Hostels (or shelters) and housing projects provide a temporary place to stay for people who have nowhere else to stay. For many people they are the first step out of homelessness. Hostels vary widely in their services, some offering more support than others.
A number of hostels will ask for payment to stay there and some will ask for additional payments for food.
Night shelters on the other hand tend to be free places to stay on a temporary basis. They often offer little more than a bed to sleep in indoors and tend to be constructed inside churches and schools when there is a particular need for emergency accommodation (such as during the winter).
There are various hostels, shelters and housing projects in London which can offer accommodation if you find yourself with nowhere to live.
Some hostels will, subject to availability, offer you accommodation if you turn up. Other hostels and housing projects will require a referral from another organisation, perhaps a council or a charity, in order to offer you support. If a hostel requires a referral it should be able to tell you who to approach in order to request the referral.
Some hostels and housing projects provide specialist support to people who are particularly vulnerable to homelessness, for example because they have problems with alcohol or substance misuse, or because they have mental health problems.
Other information and advice
Shelter provides advice on all aspects of housing and homelessness including a searchable directory of local organisations which can offer advice. Shelter's telephone advice line on 0808 800 4444 is open 8am–8pm on weekdays and 8am–5pm on weekends, 365 days a year.
http://www.homeless.org.uk/ helps people who are sleeping rough to link in with support services, and offers advice if you are worried about someone else who is sleeping rough.
http://www.streetlink.org.uk/: If you're concerned about someone sleeping rough, please contact Streetlink so that they can connect them to local support and services they need.
Missing People is the only charity in the UK which specialises in, and is dedicated to, bringing missing children and adults back together with their families.
No one needs to sleep rough in London
Sutton Council is supporting the Mayor of Londons new rough sleeping campaign, No one needs to sleep rough in London.
The campaign aims to encourage Londoners to use StreetLink to connect rough sleepers to services and to donate to a new London Homeless Charities Group. The charities group provides Londoners wanting to help rough sleepers in the capital with a single donation point.
To donate visit: www.gofundme.com/