Hostels (or shelters) and housing projects provide a temporary place to stay for people who have nowhere else to stay. For many people they are the first step out of homelessness. Hostels vary widely in their services, some offering more support than others.
A number of hostels will ask for payment to stay there and some will ask for additional payments for food.
Nightshelters on the other hand tend to be free places to stay on a temporary basis. They often offer little more than a bed to sleep in indoors and tend to be constructed inside churches and schools when there is a particular need for emergency accommodation (such as during the winter).
There are various hostels, shelters and housing projects in London which can offer accommodation if you find yourself with nowhere to live.
Some hostels will, subject to availability, offer you accommodation if you turn up. Other hostels and housing projects will require a referral from another organisation, perhaps a council or a charity, in order to offer you support. If a hostel requires a referral it should be able to tell you who to approach in order to request the referral.
Some hostels and housing projects provide specialist support to people who are particularly vulnerable to homelessness, for example because they have problems with alcohol or substance misuse, or because they have mental health problems.
Homeless UK provides a searchable directory of hostels and housing projects available in the London area. In order to help you to find the right services quickly they have broken down the types of accommodation available as follows:-
For people who urgently need accommodation
- Quick access - Short stay hostels for homeless people needing emergency accommodation. Often for people sleeping rough. May take self referrals but usually only accept referrals from specialist agencies working with rough sleepers and homeless people.
- Nightstop - For young homeless people usually aged 16-25. Very short stay (3-5 nights). A bedroom in the home of a volunteer host. May accept self referrals but often only take referrals from specific agencies.
- Winter shelter - Basic emergency accommodation available in winter. Often in church halls. Some accept self referrals but others only take referrals from specific agencies.
Second stage accommodation
Other projects for homeless people (often those moving on from first stage emergency accommodation).
- Foyer - For young people (usually aged 16-25) who need the support offered around employment, education and training.
- Housing scheme - Accommodation in shared houses or self contained flats with regular staff visits for people who need low to medium levles of support to live independently.
- Low support - Hostels for people who only need a low level of support with daily living skills. Staff may be on site or may visit regularly.
- Medium support - For homeless people who need a medium level of support with daily living skills. Staff are usually based on site.
- Supportive - For homeless people who need a high level of support and are unable to live independently.
For people with specific support needs as well as housing needs.
- Alcohol and drugs - For people with alcohol or drug problems. Most projects are "dry" where alcohol is banned, but some "wet" alcohol projects allow drinking.
- Ex-offenders - For people with a history of offending or who are at risk of offending.
- Mental health - For people who have mental health problems.
- Working people - For people who are in employment and have no or very low support needs.