Get a place to stay if you're homeless and on the streets
Council help during extreme weather
Most councils in England have special accommodation help during severe cold or heat. This is known as the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol or SWEP.
You do not have to meet any immigration, residence or priority need conditions to get SWEP accommodation.
SWEP accommodation can be in a hostel, night shelter or in a building owned by a community group. Advice and support into longer term accommodation may be available.
Contact the council
The council must give you emergency housing if they think you could:
Ask to speak to the rough sleeping team if the council's homeless team say they cannot help.
How to contact your council's homeless team
What is your location?
You can contact Streetlink if you're sleeping rough.
Streetlink can connect you with local outreach teams by passing on your location and description.
Outreach teams are usually charity workers who come out overnight to help people who are sleeping rough.
They can sometimes help you access emergency housing or hostels.
Places to stay
You may be able to stay in a night shelter or a hostel depending on your situation.
The staff or volunteers at night shelters and hostels can sometimes give advice on housing, benefits, employment and other practical support.
Night shelters are places to sleep for people who would be on the streets. You do not have to pay to stay in most night shelters. Some are only open in the winter or when there is extreme weather.
You arrive by a set time in the evening and leave in the morning. You usually have to share the sleeping area with other people. Some night shelters may offer showers and hot meals.
Hostels offer basic temporary housing. You usually have to pay to stay in a hostel. You can get housing benefit to help you pay if you're on a low income.
Most hostels are for single homeless adult men. Some are for people who have experienced domestic abuse or have mental health, drug or alcohol problems.
Hostels usually provide:
your own bedroom, which may be shared with someone of the same sex
a shared bathroom
a shared kitchen
at least one meal a day
You can usually stay in a hostel for 1 to 6 months.
Most hostels provide a support worker who can help you find and move on to long term housing.
How to get into a night shelter
Contact your council if you're homeless with nowhere to stay.
Ask about emergency options. Tell them if you are on the streets or sleeping rough.
Contact Streetlink if the council does not help or you cannot get in touch with them.
Help if you do not meet immigration conditions
You may be able to stay in a night shelter if you cannot get benefits because of your immigration status.
The No Accommodation Network has a list of charities who provide night shelters.
How to get into a hostel
You need a referral to get into many hostels, especially in London. This means a charity, outreach team or council will need to contact the hostel for you.
Some hostels will let you self refer by calling them or turning up in person. These are called direct access hostels.
Check with the hostel to find out who can stay. Ask if they have rules about:
alcohol or pets
needing links with the area
Some hostels allow you to move in straight away if you're offered a place. Others may put you on a waiting list.
You can claim housing benefit to help you pay for a hostel. You do not usually have to pay a deposit or rent in advance.
You'll need to show the hostel proof of:
benefits (for example, a letter from Jobcentre Plus)
identity (for example, your National Insurance card or your passport)
You may also need to pay a service charge of £10 to £35 a week for meals, heating and laundry.
The service charge is not covered by housing benefit and you'll need to pay this from your other income.
If you break hostel rules
You may be asked to leave if you break the rules.
Some hostels will try to help you find alternative accommodation before you are evicted.
The hostel should let local homelessness outreach teams know you are being evicted.
If you want to leave
Some people find it difficult to stay in a hostel.
Tell hostel staff if you are having problems, for example if you are sharing a room with someone you do not get on with.
Last updated: 21 December 2022