Temporary housing if you’re homeless: hostels

Find out about hostels - how to get a place, how much they cost and what they're like.

Get a place in a hostel

Search for a hostel

Look for hostels or nightshelters on the Homeless Link site and find out how you can be referred.

You'll need a referral to get into many hostels and nightshelters (especially in London). This means an agency will need to contact the hostel on your behalf. 

Some hostels and nighshelters 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 don't 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)

If you're from abroad and can't claim benefits most hostels won't accept you.

You may also need to pay a service charge of £10 – £35 a week for:

  • meals
  • heating
  • laundry

The service charge won't 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:

  • bathroom
  • kitchen
  • 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
  • are female
  • 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
  • anti-social behaviour
  • needing links with the area

How long you can stay

Most hostels let you stay from 1 to 6 months. Some are for short-term stays and others for long-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

Still need help?

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone


Last updated - 08 Sep 2017

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