Accommodation in an emergency
Different types of accommodation options for people in an emergency.
- Covid-19: Short-term lets during the pandemic
- Suitability of emergency options
- Help from social services for households with children
- Help for young people and care leavers
- Staying in a hostel or shelter
- Staying with friends
- Homelessness help from a local authority
- Women's refuges
- Men's refuges
- Bed and breakfast hotels
- Backpackers hostels and youth hostels
- Emergency help for people from abroad
Covid-19: Short-term lets during the pandemic
Government guidance for accommodation providers lists circumstances in which businesses providing holiday accommodation, including hotels, hostels, B&Bs, campsites, caravan parks, boarding houses and short-term lets can remain open during the period of national restrictions.
Exceptions include providing accommodation to people who are vulnerable, homeless, survivors of domestic abuse, those unable to return to their main residence or who occupy the accommodation as their main residence.
For information about the provision of accommodation for homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic, see Covid 19 and homelessness.
Suitability of emergency options
Emergency accommodation is housing that can be accessed very quickly, such as bed and breakfast, hotels or hostels.
The suitability of each emergency housing option varies depending on the person's housing status, needs and preferences and whether the person has any money to pay for housing.
Options available depend upon the types of emergency accommodation available in the local area.
Help from social services for households with children
Help for young people and care leavers
Local authorities have duties to young people and care leavers in housing need.
Staying in a hostel or shelter
There are a variety of different types and sizes of hostels run by public and private sector landlords and voluntary organisations.
Staying with friends
If a person can stay with friends or relatives in the short-term they may find this the least stressful emergency option.
Staying with friends or family can also give the client time to explore other accommodation options, and could allow them to save up money for private rented accommodation, or go on a hostel waiting list.
Homelessness help from a local authority
A person who is homeless or threatened with homelessness can make a homeless application to a local authority.
If the local authority has reason to believe the person is homeless, eligible and has a priority need then they have a duty to provide interim (emergency) accommodation.
Women who have to leave home because of domestic violence or threats may want to stay at a refuge.
Women's refuges are usually ordinary houses shared by women and children. Women do not have to go to a refuge in their own area and the address is kept secret to protect women from violent partners.
Refuge staff can help with claiming benefits and finding other housing.
Women with male children may find it difficult to get into a refuge, especially if the children are over twelve years of age.
There is limited provision for men experiencing violence. Men's Advice Line runs a national helpline for male victims of domestic violence.
Bed and breakfast hotels
These are privately run hotels and are usually more expensive than hostels. They usually ask for payment in advance. There may be no cooking facilities and some do not allow residents to stay in their rooms during the day. Some do not accept people who are claiming housing benefit.
Local advice centres or the local authority may have lists of bed and breakfast hotels; they are also listed in the Yellow Pages.
Backpackers hostels and youth hostels
Backpackers hostels and youth hostels are aimed at people travelling on a budget. They can sometimes be a useful short-term option for clients with some money.
They are usually found in larger cities and in areas popular with tourists. Most have no age criteria, including many youth hostels.
Many have vacancies on the same day, and can offer basic dormitory accommodation, often including breakfast.
Hostels may request proof that the client is a backpacker, for example, an overseas passport or travel documents.
Local tourist information offices should have information on backpackers hostels and youth hostels.
Emergency help for people from abroad
People from abroad may be able to get help from social services in the form of accommodation, assistance in kind, vouchers and, in rare cases, cash.
People from abroad without dependent children may be able to get this help under community care legislation, however they will need to have an urgent need for care and attention which is not being met in any other way.
Destitution alone is not sufficient grounds to show a need for care and attention. Other factors, such as disability, age or other special circumstances, combined with destitution, will need to be evident. People from abroad are unlikely to be accepted by hostels unless they are entitled to benefits.
EU nationals who are rough sleepers may be able to get support to return to their home country.
Last updated: 19 March 2021