Hostels & nightshelters
If you need a place to sleep tonight, your best option may be a hostel or a nightshelter. Your local Housing Executive office can give you details of hostels and nightshelters in your area.
How can I get a place in a hostel?
There are different ways of applying to different hostels.
Some hostels can only give you a room if you have been sent there by the Housing Executive, Social Services or the Probation Board. The Housing Executive can give you a list of hostels that can accept you at the door if there are rooms available. These are often called 'direct access' hostels. You should telephone first to check that they have room. You might be turned away if you arrive when the hostel is full.
Some hostels have rules about who can stay and may work with particular groups of people, such as:
- single people
- young people
- people with drug or alcohol addictions
- people with mental health problems
- people leaving an institution
- women fleeing domestic violence
Specialist hostels might be able to help you with problems that are making your housing situation worse. An advice agency can tell you whether there are any specialist hostels in your area and what help they can offer you.
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What will a hostel be like?
Standards in hostels vary, and so does the cost. Most hostels will have their own house rules and you will probably have to sign an agreement to say that you agree to these rules. Some hostels close during the day and you might have to be in the hostel quite early at night. Alcohol and drugs are banned from most hostels.
Most hostels don't accept couples. In most hostels you will get your own room, but you may have to share a room and washing facilities. You will also have to share cooking and laundry facilities. Most hostels are able to help you apply for benefits, permanent housing or other services you may need.
Most hostels have house rules that you must follow if you want to stay in the hostel. You can be asked to leave if you break the rules of the hostel. This can make it more difficult to find other temporary accommodation.
People from advice agencies will often come in and provide support and services to hostel residents. You might be able to access training or counselling services through the hostel.
How long can I stay?
The length of time you can stay in a hostel varies from a couple of nights to a few months. Most hostels will try to help you find permanent accommodation before you leave. This could be a place in a long stay hostel, or special 'move-on' accommodation if you need support to live by yourself.
Will I have to pay?
You will have to pay for your hostel or nightshelter. The rent varies between hostels but can be quite high. You will also have to pay for your laundry and meals. Most hostels have staff who can check what you are entitled to and help you to claim benefits. You may be able to claim housing benefit. However, it may not cover all of your rent and won't cover any extra services such as laundry or meals.
If you are receiving jobseeker's allowance or income support, the cost of your hostel or nightshelter will be paid. However, you will have to pay for any extra services such as laundry or meals.
What are nightshelters?
Nightshelters are very basic hostels. You will usually have to sleep in a shared bedroom or a dormitory. Nightshelters are a short term option. You can get a place to stay for a few nights and you can often get food as well. Some nightshelters are only open during the winter.
Staff at nightshelters can offer you support with benefits and may be able to help you find permanent accommodation. Nightshelters may also be able to help you access specialist support services.
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