Coronavirus: information and updates

Finding emergency housing if you feel unsafe

Ask for short-term emergency housing if you feel unsafe in your home. Do not wait for something to happen. This could be physical or emotional abuse, threatening or controlling behaviour.

How to recognise abuse (Refuge)

Warning If you're in immediate danger

Call the police on 999 if you or your children are in danger of immediate harm.

If you cannot reply to questions on the phone, cough or tap the handset. The operator may ask you to press 55 if you cannot speak.

If you cannot call, text 'REGISTER' to 999 and follow the instructions.

Get advice

Contact a domestic abuse organisation to get advice about your situation. Try calling when you are alone. They will talk you through your options for leaving your home or see if you can stay in your home safely. You can contact:

Warning Support is still available

Domestic abuse support is available during the coronavirus outbreak. While social distancing rules are in place, you can still leave your home if you are at risk or unsafe.

Some support lines may have fewer staff to answer calls at the moment. Leave a voicemail or try calling again if you do not get through. There is help available.

Accessing short-term emergency housing

There are 2 ways of accessing short-term emergency housing:

  • through a referral to a refuge
  • with help from your local authority

The accommodation available may not be in your area, and you may have to move away.

If you are renting and worried about your contract, it's best to leave your home first. Support officers can help you sort out your tenancy later.

Referral to a refuge

A refuge is safe accommodation for women experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse. If you're in this situation, call a domestic abuse organisation or helpline. They will help you find a refuge to contact. If you're low on credit, the adviser may contact the refuge for you.

The refuge will help you make a plan to leave your home safely. They may also be able to help you move. Some women stay at refuges for a few weeks or months while they look for longer-term housing options.

Support from a local authority

If you feel physically or emotionally unsafe at home, local authorities must help you find safe accommodation or help you be safe in your home. This can be your local authority or one in another area. You must meet certain immigration and residence conditions for them to support you.

Immigration and residence restrictions (Shelter England)

Emergency housing

You will get emergency housing if you meet immigration conditions and you are:

  • pregnant or have children living with you
  • considered vulnerable, for example due to domestic abuse, physical or mental health conditions

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

Accommodation options are limited, but councils must try to take your needs into account. This includes access needs and any health services you use regularly. You may initially stay in a hotel or bed and breakfast. But the local authority has a duty to help you with long-term housing.

The council may not help further if you reject the accommodation they offer. If it's unsuitable for you, it's best to accept the offer and then get legal advice.

Check if you're eligible for Civil Legal Aid (GOV.UK)

Help if you're homeless: domestic abuse (Shelter England)

Warning Do not return home if you leave

It may be unsafe for you to return home if you decide to leave. If you have any doubts, contact a domestic abuse helpline to talk through your concerns.

If you stay in your home

If you decide to stay in your home, you can still access support.

If you are not eligible for short-term emergency accommodation, think about how you can be safe. You should try to:

  • stay in touch with your family and friends as much as possible
  • set up a code word or signal you can text someone close to you if you feel threatened
  • save emergency and helpline numbers in your phone
  • have a small amount of cash on you
  • keep a bag of essential items in a safe place or with a neighbour, including forms of ID, bank statements and any letters about debt
  • make a safety plan in case you need to leave quickly

Making a safety plan (Women's Aid)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 29/05/2020

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