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Homeless when released from custody

If you were recently released from prison, find out about services that could provide practical support and help you find accommodation. You could also apply to the council for housing assistance as a homeless person.

Will the council provide me with accommodation?

We can provide you with advice and support to help you find alternative accommodation. However, we will not have a duty to provide you with emergency accommodation or temporarily house you unless you are considered to be eligible, homeless and have a priority need.

Priority need for prisoners and ex-offenders 

In some circumstances, the council might decide you are in priority need because you have spent time in prison or on remand. The council will consider whether you should be regarded as being vulnerable by virtue of the fact that you are homeless. This has a particular meaning for homelessness applications and is not the same as being labelled vulnerable in prison. When considering your homelessness application, the council 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

For further information about the homeless criteria, please visit Shelter or contact Shelter on 0808 800 4444. Your housing officer can also discuss this with you when you make an application for housing assistance

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

When you apply to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets as homeless, the Housing Options service will check to see if you have a local connection with its area. You can establish a local connection, for example, by living, working, or having immediate family (usually a parent or brother or sister) 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 fleeing domestic violence, you can apply to any council in any area. The council you apply to has to help you.

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.

Find out more from gov.uk website about ASBOs.

High risk prisoners managed by a multi agency public protection arrangement (MAPPA) may be required to live in certain areas.

Emergency accommodation if you have no housing

You may need to use emergency accommodation such as a hostel, night shelter or bed and breakfast accommodation if you have nowhere to go following your release. Hostels provide temporary accommodation. Some are direct access, which means you don't need a referral from an agency to use them.

There are day centres that provide cheap hot meals, showers, laundry facilities and other practical help for people who need somewhere to go during the day. They may also be able to help you find housing. Please contact the Housing Options service for advice on locating the day centres in Tower Hamlets.

Search the Homeless England directory to find hostels, emergency and longer term accommodation and day centres in your area. This information can be found at homeless.org.uk.

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

Help finding housing in the private rented sector

Tower Hamlets private renting scheme

The Tower Hamlets Private Rented Scheme is a non-statutory scheme introduced by the Housing Options Service. The scheme supports applicants that are homeless or threatened with homelessness to secure affordable and suitable accommodation in the Private Rent Sector (PRS) to address their homeless situation

One of the main ways the scheme helps is by supporting residents to access private rent sector accommodation. The support is generally in the form of a non-refundable cash incentive payment underpinned by a bond agreement given directly to an approved landlord/letting agent. The incentive and bond is in exchange for the landlord/letting agent wavering the requirement for rent in advance or a rental deposit often sums that homeless people on low incomes are unable to raise. In return, the landlord/agent will issue them with a tenancy (generally an Assured Shorthold Tenancy) that will be for a period of a minimum of two years.

Please use the London rents map or House price calculator to decide which areas are affordable for you.

Help finding housing from probation services

Offenders serving sentences of 12 months or more are released on licence and live in the community supervised by the probation service until the end of their sentence.

If you are released on licence, your probation officer can help you find accommodation, as long as you have spent a continuous period of at least twelve months in custody.

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 be able to prepare for your release when you are in prison by saving some of your prison wages. You could consider opening a credit union account when you are in prison. Ask at the prison for details.

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 through Stonhambass.org.uk. Accommodation is provided for up to four people in shared houses in residential areas, with support from a visiting support officer (accommodation can also be provided for families).