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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Getting a place - plan and prepare

There are a number of things to think about when you’re moving out of home or leaving care for the first time. If you can, try to plan and prepare before moving out. It's a big decision to make.

If you’re leaving in a rush, you might have to move into emergency housing until you can get something more permanent sorted out.

Emergency housing

If you can’t return home and need emergency housing you should speak to an adviser at Housing Rights.  Your best option may be to stay with a friend or family member until you get yourself sorted out, but that’s not always possible.

If you’ve got nowhere to go and are facing a night on the streets go to the Housing Executive or Social Services as early in the day as possible.  If you’re homeless and you’re vulnerable they have to offer you some sort of assistance. Unfortunately, there’s not always emergency accommodation available in the area you’re in, so you might be placed somewhere further away.

There are a few different types of emergency housing, but the most common type is a hostel.  Some hostels are specifically for younger people and you can only get a space in one of these if you’ve been sent by the Housing Executive or Social Services.  There are also hostels for young people that will accept you without a referral if they have space.  Call the hostels to find out if they can take you. 

  • Malone Foyer, South Belfast - call Simon Community Central Access Point on 0800 171 2222
  • Flax Foyer, North Belfast - call the Foyer directly on 028 9059 3301
  • Strand Foyer, L/Derry - call the Foyer directly on 028 7128 1155
  • Jefferson Court, L/Derry - call the hostel directly on 028 7136 1306
  • SL-Eight, Omagh - call the hostel directly on 028 8225 9000

If you’re turned away by any of these agencies or they tell you they can’t help, speak to an adviser at Housing Rights or another advice agency immediately and let them know that you’re homeless with nowhere to sleep tonight.

Housing options

Your options for housing are

Each option has good points and drawbacks.  Some options will mean you’ll have greater support but less independence.  Some options are more expensive than others and, depending on where you want to live; it might be difficult to find the right kind of accommodation.

Deciding what you can afford

Budgeting is an essential part of running a home.  Whether you’re living on your own or sharing with friends you’ll need to ensure you have enough money coming in to cover your rent, your monthly bills and your other expenses.

If you’re renting privately, you’ll usually be expected to pay your rent at the start of the month and you’ll probably need to pay a security deposit too.  It can be incredibly difficult to get this much money together at short notice, but you may be able to get a loan from the Discretionary Finance Support Fund for your first month’s rent.

Even if you get housing benefit, it may not be enough to cover your full rent.  People who rent privately have their rent calculated under a set of rules known as Local Housing Allowance.  The amount of housing benefit you’ll get under this system will not usually be enough to cover your rent.  If you’re aged under 35 you’ll normally only be entitled to enough housing benefit to cover a room in a shared house

Don’t forget about the other expenses you’ll have.  You need to have enough money to pay for:

  • heat
  • electricity
  • travel or car costs
  • food
  • cleaning products
  • rates
  • mobile phone
  • cable or internet services
  • television licence
  • contents insurance
  • treats, like going to the cinema or buying clothes.

If paying the rent is going to be a stretch, try to find somewhere cheaper. Discuss your options with a housing adviser before you sign any agreements or hand over any money.

Rent for supported accommodation or a Housing Executive or housing association house might be a little bit cheaper than rent in the private sector.  Your housing benefit will usually cover your rent in a social house. Housing benefit won’t cover any service charges or most of the costs listed above.  If you have to pay rates on your property, your housing benefit should cover these.

Supported housing

Living in supported housing is a great option for people who are moving on from home or care, but still need a bit of help managing things. 

In supported accommodation, you’ll have your own room and will usually be expected to do your own cooking and cleaning, but there will be staff available to help you with any problems you experience.  The people who work there can help you with questions about benefits, jobs, personal issues or whatever’s bothering you.  Many supported housing options also provide on-site training for residents.

In Northern Ireland you will usually only get placed in supported housing by Social Services or the Housing Executive, although the Simon Community also offers supported housing in the Belfast Foyer.

People who don't live in supported housing can still get help through the Supporting People scheme.  This helps people who might need a bit of extra support to manage living on their own.