Homeless when released from prison

Last Updated: 4 October 2023

If you were recently released from prison, find out about services that could provide practical support and help you find accommodation.

You must make contact with our Housing Options team as soon as possible by calling 01539 793 199.

Priority need for prisoners and ex-offenders

In some circumstances, the Housing Options team might decide you are in priority need because you have spent time in prison or on remand.

They 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 Housing Options team 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

The fact that you have been in prison does not in itself mean that we have to treat you as being vulnerable and in priority need for accommodation. They 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.

Contact the Housing Options team to find out more about how we decide if you're in priority need.

Prisoners and ex-offenders treated as intentionally homeless

The Housing Options Team may decide that you are intentionally homeless if you were evicted from your previous home because of criminal or antisocial behaviour or because of rent arrears resulting from your time in prison.

If the Housing Options Team decides 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.

It is very important to seek advice from a housing advisor, particularly in cases where it could be argued 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
  • mental illness
  • frailty
  • an assessed substance abuse problem

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

When you apply 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.

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.

Homeless England directory provides details of hostels, day centres, emergency and longer term accommodation in your area.

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

Help finding housing in private rented sector

You could try to find housing in the private rented sector. Our Housing Options Team will be able to advise you how to find out what housing is available locally and how to apply for Universal Credit to help you with your housing costs. They may also be able to help you with rent in advance or a deposit by providing you with an interest free loan for 6 months.

You may also be able to receive help with support and accommodation from DISC Cumbria Offender Services (COS) Project if you are current to probation and in the community.  For a referral, please contact your Offender Manager.

Apply for a housing association home

As a longer term alternative option, you could also consider applying for a Housing Association home: Cumbria Choice online housing application.

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 advisor 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 through Ways to Welfare. A prison advisor or other advisor may be able to help you with your application.

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.

Further assistance from agencies:

Nacro provides a wide range of support for young people and adults across our education, resettlement and rehabilitation, health and wellbeing, and housing services.

DOORS (Disc Offender Outreach & Resettlement Service) work in partnership with National Probation Service and Cumbria & Lancashire Community Rehabilitation Company. DOORS is an intensive community based support service, specialising in working with offenders who present as high or very high risk of serious harm with complex accommodation needs across Lancashire. You can contact them on 01772 910 920.