Finding Emergency Accommodation


If you are homeless or needing to seek refuge due to domestic violence, there are different types of accommodation to access in an emergency.

You should also refer to our 'homelessness' and 'homelessness: 16 and 17 yrs' web pages to see if you are eligible for emergency housing or assistance from the local authority. See our 'Escaping Domestic Violence' web page for more information if you are seeking refuge because of domestic violence.

The homeless link can also help you search for many of the emergency accommodations listed in this factsheet. When you find somewhere to stay, they may have their own requirements on how to access their services, which you should enquire about, such as:

  • Do you need to book in advance or can you turn up in person?

  • Is there a requirement to arrive by a certain time?

  • Is it necessary to have a local connection?

  • Can you self refer or do you need to obtain a referral, for example from the local authority, social services or an advice agency ?

  • Are there any rules regarding alcohol or pets?


A hostel is temporary and basic living accommodation, often providing at least one meal per day. Hostels provide a furnished bedroom but you normally have to share with someone else of the same sex. The majority of hostels accommodate single homeless adult men and others accommodate certain groups, for example; all female, people who have experienced domestic violence. Rough sleepers and people with drug or alcohol addiction.

In order to access a room at a hostel most will only accept referrals from a local authority or another organisation. Especially in London where there is a higher need. Some do allow self referral by just turning up. Some are known as ‘direct access’ hostels where you can move straight in and others will have a waiting list.

What to expect

Hostels will provide bathroom, kitchen and laundry facilities and some will also provide a support worker to help with the following:

  • Assist you into moving into longer-term housing

  • Making applications for benefits

  • Obtaining identity documentation (ID) for example, benefits letters or a passport

  • Look for training and employment

  • Support with drug or alcohol addiction

  • Learning skills and participating in activities like cookery or sport

You can expect to be allowed to stay in a hostel from between one and six months, as some provide long term provision and others are just shorter stays.

You may be asked to leave if you break the rules, for example, by:

  • not paying rent or other charges

  • drinking or taking drugs

There are also hostels specifically for specific groups of people, such as:

  • Couples

  • Women only

  • LGBT

  • Black and ethnic minority groups

Rent and Housing benefit

You are not normally required to pay a deposit or rent in advance, but the majority of hostels do charge a rent. Therefore you will need to make an application for Housing Benefit to pay for your stay. The hostel will need to see evidence of your benefits and also identification. If you're from abroad and unable to claim benefits it is unlikely that the hostel will allow you to stay.

Service charge

Some hostels will charge a service charge of between £10.00 and £35.00 per week to provide you with food, heating and a laundry service.Housing Benefit will not cover the service charge , so would need to be paid from other benefits or income you receive.


If you don’t pay your rent to the hostel, you may be asked to leave.

Night Shelters

A night shelter will offer you a basic room or dormitory that you will share with someone of the same sex as you. Designed to b e an emergency provision for a few nights for anyone sleeping rough. You normally have to arrive by a certain time and leave by 8:30 am as they are not open during the day. However night shelters are open all year.

What to expect

Night shelters are run by trained volunteers who will assist you, by making referrals or signposting you to organisations to help you find longer term accommodation, claiming benefits or other relevant service.


Night shelters are usually free, others will charge you between £2.00 and £5.00 per night. You will normally be provided with an evening meal, toiletries and assistance in claiming benefits too. Some night shelters will only accept you if you are claiming benefits.

Winter shelter

You will be able to stay at a winter shelter if you are sleeping rough and have nowhere else to stay. Most normally open from November through to March and will offer a basic overnight stay.

What to expect

Winter shelters are usually run by charities or faith-based groups and will accommodate you within a communal space , for example a church hall or a day centre.

Winter shelters may include free food, such as, an evening meal and breakfast, free toiletries and offer assistance in finding you somewhere to stay long term and during the daytime.

You would need to vacate the premises after breakfast and take any possessions with you, but if they have availability you may be able to return again in the evening.

Costs and requirements

Accommodation and food are normally free at a Winter shelter and you don’t have to be in receipt of benefits.

B & B's

If you have made a homelessness application to the local authority , sometimes they will put you up in a B & B as a temporary emergency measure. You may also approach a B & B yourself. If the local authority has placed you in a B & B they will try and move you to more suitable housing as soon as they can. If you are pregnant or have children you can only stay for a maximum of six weeks.

What to expect

A B & B offers a temporary place to stay and they are normally privately run businesses, typically you will be provided with a private furnished single or family room, a shared bathroom, a shared kitchen and the use of a shared washing machine. You may have to make breakfast yourself and others will provide a breakfast.


The cost of a B & B will vary and may also depend on location. If you are in receipt of housing Benefit this will cover all or some of your rent but it will not pay for your food or heating and other essential things. It is essential to pay your rent and other service charges, as otherwise you may be asked to leave.

Women's refuge

Most refuges will offer accommodation, the same day that you call them. However if you are not safe within the area where you live, it may be necessary to seek refuge in a different area.

You can seek accommodation in a refuges if you are a women (and children) at risk of domestic abuse, violence or threats. You are able to take your children with you, but some refuges won't accept boys over the age of 13 or 14.

What to expect

Accommodation is usually provided within an ordinary house or a larger larger purpose-built building. You will be offered your own room, but may have to share with your children. However there is likely to be shared facilities such as; a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. You will be responsible for your own cooking but will be able to come and go as you please.

There will be trained staff present at a women’s refuge available to provide emotional and practical support.

Rent and Housing Benefit

You will be charged rent at a refuge but you should be able to apply for housing Benefit t cover this. In addition to this is you are required to pay rent on the property you have left you can normally receive Housing benefit for both, providing you intend to return to your old home.

You can find further help in finding a refuge with and by telephoning them on: 0808 2000 247 (open 24 hours). Also refer to our domestic violence web page.

Day centres

Some individual day centres are purposely for homeless people and rough sleepers. Other centres are for groups such as; young people, older people, people with mental health problems.

What to expect

Day centres will allow you somewhere to stay and keep warm during the day, when you have nowhere else to stay. They provide facilities for laundry and for you to wash and shower. You will also be able to obtain cheap food.

Not all centres are open every day, so you will need to check the centres times before you go.


Free , with the exception of some meals and laundry at some centres. Lots of help is free, but you may need to pay for meals and laundry.

Finding emergency accommodation: 16 to 25 year olds

Homeless and under 18

If you have nowhere to stay contact your local authority, they will have an out of hours contact number too. Social services and the local authority's housing team have a duty to help you. Please refer to our ‘Homelessness:16 & 17' web page.

Homeless 18 to 25

You are normally entitled to receive help with accommodation from your local authority if you are classed as being in priority need. Visit our 'Homelessness' web page for further information.


Some hostels are available just for young people. You may prefer to share with other young people only.


Foyers provide a safe place for young people to live, learn and make the transition to independent adulthood’

Nightstops for the under 25s

What is a nightstop?

If you are under 25 and homeless you may be eligible to access this scheme, which will provide you with free overnight accommodation in the home of a trained volunteer. You will be allowed to use this scheme and have somewhere to stay for up to three weeks. This may not necessarily be with the same volunteer.

What to expect?

You will be provided with your own room, have the use of a bathroom, a washing machine and be given breakfast, a packed lunch and an evening meal.

Why you might be refused a place

You may be refused a place if any of the following apply:

  • If you have a criminal record

  • If you have an alcohol or drug addiction

  • If you have a history of violence

How to get into a nightstop

Some schemes will allow you to contact them directly and others will need you to be referred from another organisation.. You are normally able to stay that night once you have been offered a place to stay. There are also volunteer Nightstop drivers who can assist in taking you there too.

Sofa surfing

You may have no permanent address and instead you are moving from one friend's home to another. If you have been asked to leave you should speak to your local authority as they may be able to assist you with emergency accommodation. Also visit for further information.