How to get into a hostel or nightshelter

If you are single and facing a night on the streets, you might be able to get a hostel, nightshelter or women's refuge.

What are hostels and nightshelters?

Hostels provide emergency and longer term accommodation. Nightshelters are very basic, usually providing a sleeping place in shared rooms.

Find out more about hostels and nightshelters.

If you're sleeping rough, find out how to stay safe on the streets.

Use Homeless England to find a hostel

You need a referral to get into many hostels, especially in London, but there are about 250 hostels or nightshelters in England that you can approach directly yourself. These are known as 'direct access' hostels.

Use the accommodation search on Homeless England to: 

  • search for hostels and nightshelters across the UK
  • check who the project is for and whether you need a referral
  • get information on the accommodation, the support offered and the hostel rules

For most hostels, you'll have to claim housing benefit to pay your rent. There may be other charges too, especially if food is provided. You won't be able to get a place to stay in many hostels if you can't claim housing benefit.

You may not be able to get a place in many hostels if you have temporary permission to stay in the UK or are an EU national without the right to claim benefits.

Some nightshelters and all cold weather shelters are free. No charge is made for a bed space for the night.

Get a referral from a day centre or a council's housing department

Day centres provide practical help, advice and support if you are homeless and facing sleeping on the streets. Most day centres don't open at weekends or in the evening.

Day centres can contact a hostel or nightshelter on your behalf to ask about accommodation for you. Some day centres have special referral rights into hostels and nightshelters, so contacting a day centre could give you more options.

Your council's housing options service or homelessness service can help find you a hostel or nightshelter. Council offices are open during the day. The council may have a duty to help you with emergency accommodation in some situations.

Use to find details of your local council.

If you need help at night or over the weekend, contact your local council's emergency out-of-hours service for homeless people.

Call Shelter's free helpline on 0808 800 4444 (8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 5pm weekends) for details.

Use Shelter's advice services directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.

Get referred to a hostel from an outreach team

If you are new to the streets, outreach workers can help you get a place in an emergency hostel, nightshelter or cold weather shelter. Outreach workers typically work for homelessness charities.

Use the Streetlink website or call 0300 500 0914 to make contact with an outreach service.

Get help from an advice agency

Many advice agencies can help you find a place in a hostel or nightshelter. They may know about nightshelters and special schemes in your area that aren't advertised.

Most advice agencies are open Monday to Friday during the day.

An advice agency may also be able to help you get help from the council's housing department.

Use Shelter's advice services directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.

Get help from Streetlink

Streetlink is a way of putting you in touch with services through a local council so you can get help with finding a place to stay.

You can also use Streetlink if you are concerned about someone who is sleeping rough.

Find out more from Streetlink or call 0300 500 0914.

If you're experiencing domestic abuse

Get help if you're experiencing domestic abuse.

Make sure you are in a safe place when you call.

If you're a woman, call the free 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. Their advisers may be able to refer you to a refuge. 

If you're a man, contact the Men's AdviceLine.

In an emergency, call the police on 999.

Emergency help for young people

If you are aged 16 to 25, you may be able to find a place in emergency and temporary accommodation that's for young people only.

Fill out my online form.

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