Night shelters

What is a night shelter?

Night shelters offer a very basic place to stay for anyone who would otherwise be on the streets. You usually have to share the sleeping space with others.

Most night shelters are free. Many provide an evening meal or breakfast at no cost or for a small charge.

You have to arrive by a set time in the evening and leave in the morning. 

Night shelter staff or volunteers may be able to give advice on finding somewhere to live and other practical support.

Night shelters during coronavirus

All communal night shelters including winter shelters were closed at the start of the pandemic.

From autumn 2020 councils could decide if night shelters should reopen in their local area.

Many councils, charities and churches have looked at providing alternative safer options including self contained accommodation that can be accessed at all times during the day.

How to get into a night shelter during coronavirus

Contact your council if you're homeless with nowhere to stay.

Ask about emergency options. Tell them if you're on the streets or sleeping rough.

The council might have special arrangements in place if, for example:

  • the weather is very cold

  • there are national or local lockdown restrictions in place

You should contact Streetlink if the council don't help or you can't get in touch with them. Streetlink may be able to connect you with local outreach teams. 

Health questions

The council or outreach team will ask you some health questions.

You won't be able to stay in a night shelter if you have:

  • coronavirus symptoms

  • tested positive for coronavirus in the last 10 days

  • not had your vaccine and been in contact with someone with coronavirus in the last 10 days

The council or outreach team should find you an individual room with individual washing facilities so you can self isolate. For example, a hostel, hotel or B&B.  

Updated government guidance says you can now stay in a night shelter even if you have a health condition that puts you at higher risk from coronavirus.

Check who's at higher risk from coronavirus on the NHS website. 

You may be in priority need if a health condition puts you at higher risk from coronavirus.

This means the council may have to help you with longer term housing.

If you can't get council help because of immigration conditions

You may still be able to stay in a night shelter if there is one in your area. This doesn't count as 'recourse to public funds'. 

The No Accommodation Network has a list of homeless charities who were providing night shelters before the coronavirus outbreak.

Check their websites for updates on night shelters and other help.


Last updated: 30 September 2021

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