You can present as homeless at any stage in the three months running up to your release date, although it's best not to leave it too late. Make an appointment with the Housing Advice Development Worker in your prison to start this process.
If you are presenting as homeless from prison, you will need to ask the Offender Management Unit to make a referral to begin your homeless application approximately 3 months prior to your release.
The Housing Executive should assess you no later than 28 days prior to your release. To assess you the Housing Executive will need a completed Housing and Transfer Application Form and a homeless report from the Offender Management Unit or the Housing Advice Development Worker in the prison. The Housing Executive won't accept your application without this report.
After your application form has been submitted, the Housing Executive will assess your circumstances using legal tests, also known as the “4 hurdles”. If you pass all four homelessness tests, you will be entitled to help from the Housing Executive and it will have a duty to provide you with suitable housing.
Usually, the Housing Executive will make a decision on a homelessness application within 33 days of receiving all the relevant information. However, prisoners will not pass the homelessness test until 28 days before their release date so there may be a silght delay if you start the process before this trigger. If the Housing Executive decides you are not entitled to assistance as a homeless person the letter must include detailed reasons.
If the Housing Executive decides that you are not homeless, you have a legal right to have this decision reviewed and, if the review upholds the original decision, you may be able to appeal to the County Court on a point of law.
Homelessness and prisoners
Anyone who is homeless or who is likely to become homeless can ask the Housing Executive for help. The Housing Executive will check each person's circumstances to see if they pass the 4 homelessness tests. The Housing Executive doesn't have to help people who fail these tests. Your offence history might make it more difficult to pass some of these tests, so it's important to think about the problems that some prisoners can have passing the hurdles.
Getting help to apply
If you aren't sure what you need to do to present as homeless talk to your Sentence Manager, Probation Officer, peer advisers, Housing Advice Development Worker or a NIACRO adviser working in your prison.
An adviser or probation officer can help you complete the application and will write a report about your circumstances which the Housing Executive will use to make a decision about your homelessness status.