Hostels and night shelters

If you need a place for the night, you may be able to stay in an emergency hostel or night shelter. They are usually run by housing associations, charities, or the local council.

How to get a place

It can sometimes be difficult to get into an emergency hostel or night shelter. Some have waiting lists or some will only take people who have been sent there by advice agencies, the local council or outreach teams.

To make contact with an outreach team who might be able to refer you to a hostel or night shelter, use the Streetlink website or call 0300 500 0914:

A few hostels and night shelters will accept people at the door. These are sometimes called  ‘direct access’  hostels. But it’s best to telephone first to check that they have room. You should also check whether they have any rules about who can stay there. For example, some hostels only help certain groups of people, such as:

  • single young people
  • people with drug or alcohol addictions
  • people with mental health problems
  • people from a particular cultural or religious background
  • people who have been sleeping on the streets for a long time.

A specialist hostel may be able to help with problems that are making your housing situation worse.

An adviser at Shelter Cymru can tell you whether there are any specialist hostels in your area and what kind of problems they can help with. If you are unsure where to start, get help.

What is the accommodation like?

Hostels and night shelters offer basic emergency accommodation. Some are of a high standard but some are not.

Many hostels and night shelters have strict rules. Some close during the day and you might have to be in quite early at night. You may not be able to have visitors and alcohol and drugs are usually banned. If you break the rules of the hostel, you may be asked to leave. If this happens, it could make it more difficult for you to find other emergency housing.

Night shelters

Most night shelters are free. These are usually very basic but can provide a place to stay for a few nights and often some food. Some areas only have night shelters that are open during the winter, usually from December to March. They are sometimes called cold weather shelters.


Hostels are usually less basic and will ask you to pay. In some places you may get your own room but in most you will have to share a bedroom with someone of the same sex. Most hostels don’t accept couples. They may have shared facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms. Some hostels provide meals but you usually have to pay for them.

How much does it cost?

Night shelters are usually free but hostels are not. The rent in hostels can be quite high and you may also have to pay extra for things like laundry or meals.

However, most hostels will accept people without any money as long as you can claim benefits to pay for the accommodation. They can check what you are entitled to and help you with the claim forms. Housing benefit may not cover all the rent and won’t cover any extra services such as cleaning or meals. So you may have to use part of your employment support allowance, jobseekers allowance or a training allowance to pay for anything that isn’t covered.

If you can’t claim any benefits at all (for example, because you have come from abroad), get help. You may be able to get help from social services instead.

How long can you stay?

The length of time you will be able to stay can vary. Most hostels can house you for a few nights but some may let you stay for a few months. Most hostels will try to help you find somewhere more permanent before you have to leave. They may be able to help you get a place in a longer-term hostel or special  ‘move on’  accommodation for people who aren’t ready to live on their own yet.

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495

Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

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This page was last updated on: April 4, 2023

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.