You'll need a referral to get into many hostels and night shelters (especially in London). This means an agency or the council will need to contact the hostel on your behalf.
Some hostels and night shelters will let you call them yourself or turn up in person. This is called self referral.
If you're offered a space in a 'direct access' hostel you can usually move in straight away. Some hostels run a waiting list.
Find out more about finding a place to stay if you're on the streets.
How much they cost
Most hostels charge rent – the amount varies. You do not usually have to pay a deposit or rent in advance.
You usually need to claim housing benefit to help with your rent in a hostel.
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:
The service charge will not be covered by housing benefit and you'll need to pay this from other benefits or income.
What they offer
Hostels offer temporary basic housing. They may provide at least one meal a day – usually breakfast or dinner.
You get a furnished bedroom, which may be shared with someone of the same sex. If the hostel is for both men and women, they're usually housed in separate areas.
Most hostels have a shared:
laundry to wash your clothes
Who they're for
Most hostels are for single homeless adult men. Some are for particular groups of people, including if you:
are young or older
have experienced domestic abuse
have slept on the streets for a long time
have mental health, drug or alcohol problems
Check with the hostel to find out if they have rules about:
alcohol or pets
needing links with the area
How long you can stay
Most hostels let you stay from 1 to 6 months. Some are for short stays and others for longer-term stays.
Help with other needs
You usually get a support worker who can help you:
find and move on to longer-term housing
apply for benefits
get an identity document (ID) (like a benefits letter or passport)
find training or work
with drug or alcohol problems
with activities like cookery or sport
If you break the rules
You may be asked to leave if you break the rules, for example, by:
not paying rent or other charges
drinking or taking drugs
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: 7 January 2022