When you're released from prison you may end up in a hostel until you find a more permanent home. Some hostels have waiting lists or will only take people who have been sent there by the Housing Executive or the Probation Board.
Getting a place in a hostel
Speak to your housing adviser or resettlement officer if you think you may be homeless when you leave prison. They can try to make a referral for you which, if successful, will mean you have somewhere to go when you're released. Some hostels don't need a referral from another organisation. As long as there are rooms available and you meet the eligibility criteria these direct access hostels can offer you a room when you turn up at the door.
If you've been released from prison and you've got nowhere to stay you should go to your local Housing Executive office. If the Housing Executive can't find you somewhere to stay, call an advice agency like Housing Rights.
Hostels for prisoners
Some hostels have rules about who can stay. Some hostels provide accommodation for certain types of clients, 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. Some hostels can't accept people who have committed certain offences, such as arson.
Living in a hostel
There are lots of different types of hostels in Northern Ireland. The cost, standards and type of service in hostels can vary. All hostels have rules and, sometimes, these can be very strict. Some close during the day and you might have to be in the hostel quite early at night. Alcohol and drugs are banned in most hostels.
Few hostels accept couples. In most hostels you will get your own room, but you may have to share washing facilities. You will usually have to share cooking and laundry facilities.
Staff in the hostels can usually 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. Getting thrown out of a hostel will make it much more difficult to find somewhere else to stay.
Length of stay
A hostel is temporary housing and staff will normally try to help you move on into more permanent housing. The length of time you can stay in a hostel varies from a couple of nights to a number of months. If you are staying in a nightshelter, you will usually get a place to stay for a few nights only and you will be expected to sleep in a shared bedroom or a dormitory. Staff at nightshelters can offer you support with benefits and may be able to help you find more suitable accommodation. Nightshelters and hostels may also be able to help you access specialist support services.
The Housing Executive can tell you about local nightshelters. If you're in Belfast you can try The Morning Star Hostel or Centenary House, (2 Victoria Street Belfast BT1 3GE, Phone: 028 90320320). The Welcome Centre provides nightshelter beds for women.
Paying for your space
If you are on social security benefits or low income, you can apply for housing benefit to cover the cost of the rent. Hostel support services are paid for by Supporting People funding. However, housing benefit will not cover all of your expenses - you may have to pay for extra services such as laundry and meals.