Working together to end homelessness
Rough sleeping
Housing First
Commitment to Refer


Housing homeless and vulnerable people has always been a key part of what housing associations do.  

Many housing associations were founded with the clear aim of helping to tackle rising homelessness. Today, housing associations continue to play an important role in ending homelessness, whether they are specialist organisations or general needs providers. 

How do housing associations help tackle homelessness?

Across the country, housing associations deliver a wide range of services to help prevent and solve homelessness. These include:

  • Delivering homes for people experiencing homelessness. Housing associations allocate supported and general needs housing to people experiencing homelessness, giving people a safe place to call home.

  • Supporting residents keep their tenancies. Housing associations help prevent homelessness by offering tenancy sustainment support to their residents, helping people to keep their homes.

  • Providing supported housing for people experiencing homelessness. People experiencing homelessness sometimes have complex and multiple needs. Supported housing associations help get those who need more help into safe homes.

  • Partnering with local authorities and others to provide housing and support. Housing associations work with a network of other organisations to provide homes for those at risk of homelessness, including local authorities, the NHS and community groups.

  • Becoming a Homes for Cathy member. In 2016, a group of housing associations came together to mark the 50th anniversary of Cathy Come Home by creating Homes for Cathy. Homes for Cathy have developed nine commitments housing associations can adopt to help tackle homelessness.

How do we support our members to tackle homelessness? 

We support our members by: 

  • Working with members through our Homelessness Steering Group to develop key policy asks. 
  • Supporting government initiatives on homelessness, including the Rough Sleeping Initiative. 
  • Showcasing the work of our supported housing members through campaigns including Starts at Home Day. 
  • Encouraging partnership working to ensure housing associations continue to do all they can to tackle homelessness. 
  • Campaigning to secure funding for long-term support for residents who need it to settle and thrive in their homes. 

How to help someone at risk of homelessness

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing, or at risk of homelessness, you should contact your local council housing team and the Shelter emergency helpline on 0808 800 4444. If you're concerned about someone sleeping rough, you can alert local services on the Street Link website. 

The NHF is not a referral organisation, and so we unfortunately can’t pass on any individual cases to housing associations or offer housing advice.  

Get involved

Our supported housing and homelessness network meet quarterly and is open to all our members.

Sign up to attend the next meeting

Stay updated

To receive our supported housing and homelessness newsletter, tick the box in your communications preferences.

Find out more

Case studies

We’ve been collecting best practice examples of homelessness prevention and accommodation from around the sector. 

Find out more

Our priorities for change

Across the country, there is an increasing risk of homelessness during a cost of living crisis and a difficult funding landscape. 

There are now 4.2 million people in need of social housing in England, including homeless people and those in overcrowded, unaffordable and unsuitable homes. Our analysis shows that for every new social home built in England last year (2022/23), six households were accepted as homeless by their local council.  

A record number of children are homeless, forced to live in inadequate temporary accommodation. Our research shows, if we do nothing to address the problem, 310,000 children will be living in temporary accommodation by 2045. 

As well as homeless families with children, single young people including children under 18 are also vulnerable to homelessness. In 2022-23, 135,800 young people aged 16-24 approached their council for help with homelessness.   

To help solve these issues, we have been calling for: 

  • The new government to commit to a long-term plan for housing that will build more social homes, tackle affordability challenges and increase funding for support.  
  • As part of a long-term plan for housing, the government to commit to a target of ending child homelessness by 2035.   
  • The government to boost and ringfence funding for housing related support to ensure it at least matches the £1.6bn a year allocated to local authorities in 2010.  
  • The government to review the household benefit cap, two child limit, removal of the spare room subsidy, and the five week wait for Universal Credit. 

Supporting the Homelessness Reduction Act

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 places new duties on local authorities to help prevent and relieve homelessness. There are no duties placed on housing associations but housing associations are keen to support it. 

Working together to end homelessness

We are working with the Local Government Association (LGA), with the support of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), to bring together housing associations and local authorities to tackle homelessness in partnership. We have also been working to support Homes for Cathy - a group of housing associations that came together in 2016 to mark the 50th anniversary of Cathy Come Home and to highlight the continuing needs of homeless people.

Commitment to Refer

The Commitment to Refer is a voluntary housing association commitment we developed with DLUHC to refer residents to a local authority if they are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

Rough Sleeping Strategy

Housing associations have a key part to play in resolving rough sleeping through accommodation and prevention.

Housing First

As awareness of the Housing First model and its apparent success has become widespread, more housing associations have started to get involved and others are considering how they might offer the service.

How can housing associations help to prevent homelessness?

Published in collaboration with CIH and Homes for Cathy, this compendium of case studies shines a light on the work housing associations continue to do in tackling homelessness. It provides examples of the many ways in which housing associations already help prevent homelessness for their tenants and other people at risk of homelessness, and can be a guide for housing associations wanting to embed successful homelessness prevention in their organisation.

Who to speak to

Dylan Hemmings