How we can help
If you apply to the council for housing assistance because you are homeless in these circumstances, we may not necessarily be legally obliged to provide you with any accommodation.
However, we will have a duty to assess the circumstances of your homelessness, identify what your housing and support needs are, and to work with you to try to prevent your homelessness or support you to find you somewhere to live. We will provide you with a ‘personal housing plan’ which will tell you what we can do to help you and what you can do to help yourself.
For us to be legally obliged to provide you with accommodation, we would need to be satisfied that you are eligible, homeless, in priority need and that you have not made yourself intentionally homeless.
When we are considering whether we have a duty to offer you accommodation will take into account the length of time you were in prison even if it has been some time since you were released.
We will also look at whether you:
- have a mental illness
- have a learning disability or physical disability
- have ever been in care
- have been in the armed forces
- are fleeing violence or threats of violence
- you are vulnerable for any other reason
Are you priority need?
In some circumstances, we might decide you are in priority need because you have spent time in prison or on remand. We 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
However, being in prison by itself, is not enough to treat you as being vulnerable and in priority need for accommodation. We will need to assess the evidence before it and be satisfied that you will find it difficult to seek out and maintain accommodation for yourself compared to other people who are rendered homeless.
If you have a home and want to keep it
Please refer to this advice from the National Homelessness Advice Service (NHAS) if you're an existing owner occupier or tenant and you want to keep your accommodation whilst in prison:
Are you intentionally homeless
We may decide that you are intentionally homeless if you were evicted from where you lived before going to prison because of criminal or antisocial behaviour or because of rent arrears resulting from your time in prison.
If we decide you are intentionally homeless, it 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.
The council 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. We could also decide that you are intentionally homeless if you gave up your tenancy because your entitlement to housing benefit ended during a period in prison.
It is very important that you tell us about your background as there are circumstances where you may have lost your accommodation but would not be found intentionally homeless, for instance if you were sent to prison for a crime that was not premeditated, or was not deliberate because you were not able to understand the consequences of your own actions.
This could be the case because of:
- having limited mental capacity
- having a mental illness
- having an assessed substance abuse problem
Please see the following National Homelessness Advice Service documents for further information:
- NHAS fact sheet - Prisoners: keeping your home (PDF, 155KB - external link)
- NHAS Guidance - Guide to housing options for offenders (PDF, 553KB-external link)
Areas your could be housed if homeless
When you apply to the council for assistance, the Housing Options Team will check to see if you have a local connection.
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.
If you do not have a local connection with the council, we will still try to prevent you from becoming homeless. However, if you are actually homeless we will refer your case to a Council where you do have a local connection.
As an ex-offender 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 (external link)
High risk prisoners managed by a multi-agency public protection arrangement (MAPPA) may be required to live in certain areas. If this applies to you, any housing that you or Gravesham Borough Council assist you to find will need to be approved by the Police.
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 do not need a referral from an agency to use them.
You can search the Homeless England | Homeless Link to find hostels, emergency and longer-term accommodation and day centres in your area.
You can also use Shelter's directory (external link) or call Shelter's free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444 find services near you.
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.
Money support before you are released
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.
If you are 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 Nacro BASS (external link)
Accommodation is provided for up to four people in shared houses in residential areas, with support from a visiting support officer.