Hostels and emergency housing if you’re homeless: 16 to 25 year olds

Find out about hostels and other emergency housing options if you're a homeless young person with nowhere to stay.

Emergency housing from the council

Not everyone qualifies for emergency housing from the council when homeless.

You're usually entitled to emergency housing if you have a priority need. This could be because you're:

  • aged 18-20 and spent some time in care aged 16-17
  • pregnant or have dependent children living with you
  • classed as vulnerable for a special reason such as a disability or serious health condition, abuse or violence, or a care history

You must also meet immigration and residence conditions to qualify for help.

If you're 16 or 17

Social services usually have the main responsibility for housing and support if you're under 18 and homeless. This applies regardless of your immigration status.

Contact the council

You don't need an appointment if you have nowhere to stay tonight.

Every council has an out-of-hours emergency number if the office is closed.

Find contact details for your local housing department

Hostels: how to find one and what to expect

Most hostels have a waiting list unless they are 'direct access' or 'quick access'.

You can sometimes move into a direct access hostel on the same day but only if you:

  • can find a vacancy
  • meet the hostel's criteria  

In London there are lots of hostels but very few vacancies. You usually need a referral from the council or another local organisation.

Outside London there are fewer hostels, but they are more likely to take self-referrals. This means you can contact the hostel yourself. 

Search for a hostel

1. Select 'Accommodation' under type of service.

2. Filter your results under type of hostel.

3. Click 'quick access' if you need something for tonight.

Use the Homeless Link tool to search for hostels

You may feel more comfortable living in a hostel with other young people. You can filter your search results to find:

  • hostels for young people
  • foyers - for young people in employment, education or training

You can also use the tool to look for hostels with spaces for certain groups, for example, couples, women-only, LGBT, or black and ethnic minority groups. 

Support offered and hostel rules

Each hostel is different so check what's offered on the Homeless Link tool.

You'll find information on:

  • level of support
  • how to get a referral
  • type of room and if food is included
  • other rules including visitors, smoking and alcohol policies

Most hostels have a maximum length of stay. Hostel staff help you move on to more independent living when you're ready to do so.

Paying for a hostel

You don't usually need money up front. When you move in, you need to: 

  • claim housing benefit - even if you already get universal credit
  • pay a weekly service charge for your room from other benefits or income

You can check the weekly charge for each hostel on the Homeless Link tool.

Refuges: how to find one and what to expect

Refuges are for people escaping domestic abuse, usually from a partner or former partner. They offer:

  • a safe place to stay at a confidential address
  • specialist staff who provide practical and emotional support

Most refuges are for women and their children.

Find out more about refuges if you're a woman experiencing domestic abuse

There are fewer refuge spaces for men - the Men's Advice Line can give advice on emergency options for men experiencing domestic abuse.

Violence or threats from your parents or family members

There may be specialist organisations who can help if you're not safe in your family home or have already left because of threats or violence.

The Albert Kennedy Trust (akt) can help you stay safe and find emergency housing if you identify as LGBTQ+

Karma Nirvana supports victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage. You could be referred to a refuge if you're experiencing this type of abuse. 

Nightstops: how to find one and what to expect

Nightstops provide homeless people under 25 with free overnight accommodation in the home of a trained volunteer.

You can use the scheme for up to 3 weeks and might stay with the same host or different hosts during this time.

You get:

  • your own room
  • use of the bathroom and washing machine
  • breakfast, packed lunch and an evening meal

Depending on the scheme, you may need to contact them direct or get a referral from another organisation.  

You'll be asked for references. Some schemes won't accept young people with a criminal record, history of violence, or a drug or alcohol problem. 

If you're offered somewhere, you can usually go there the same night. A Nightstop volunteer driver can help you get there.    

Find your nearest scheme on the Nightstop website


Last updated - 11 Mar 2019

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