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Moving off the streets

This section gives information about getting off the streets and into supported or independent accommodation.

What are the first steps?

In most cities and large towns, there are specialist agencies to help people sleeping on the streets. They may run day centres, outreach teams and resettlement services. What is available and how they can help will vary from area to area. For example:

  • Rural areas also have services, but they may be more limited.
  • Some agencies will not work with people from another area. If you are from another area, you may be encouraged to return there and receive help from local agencies.

When you make contact with an outreach team or with workers in a day centre, the staff can try to help you find a place for the night in a hostel or nightshelter.

Staying in a hostel is usually the first step towards leaving the streets and moving into more settled accommodation.

How do I get into a hostel?

Some hostels are direct access, which means that you turn up at the door when they open to see if they have any vacancies. Other hostels ask for a referral from an agency, such as a day centre or an outreach team. You may need proof of benefits and a form of ID before you can stay. If you do not have either, the staff should be able to help you get them, but you might not be able to stay until you have them.

Hostels generally fill up quickly, and unfortunately there are not normally enough places for everyone who needs one.

Your local council may also have a list of available hostel spaces.

How much do hostels charge?

Most hostels will probably charge for your stay, and some can be quite expensive. However, you won't be asked to pay a deposit or advance rent.

Housing Benefit may cover most of the cost, but you will probably be asked to pay a small contribution for your meals and other services such as cleaning and laundry. The staff should help you apply for housing benefit.

What if I have specific needs?

Staff may be able to help establish if you have any special needs while you're staying at the hostel. For example, you may need medical care, counselling, or help with claiming benefits.

In some areas, there are hostels that cater for the specific needs of:

  • young people
  • older people
  • women
  • people with mental health problems
  • people with alcohol or drug problems.

The staff in these hostels will have specialist knowledge of the problems faced by each client group. They may also work for, or know of, agencies that can provide help and move on accommodation.

You will probably need to be referred to a specialised hostel by a social worker or homelessness organisation, and they can have long waiting lists. Call Shelter's helpline or get in touch with a housing aid centre to find out more.

What if I have pets?

Most hostels and night shelters do not accept pets. If you have a pet and you are trying to get into emergency accommodation, you will need to check to see if they accept pets.

How long can I stay?

The length of your stay will vary from hostel to hostel. Some hostels have a maximum stay of one month. Other longer-term hostels may let residents stay for six months or more.

Where can I move to afterwards?

If you have lived on the streets or in hostels for some time, it can take a long time to prepare to live in long-term housing and take on the responsibility of your own tenancy. You could stay in move on accommodation where support will be provided to help make the transition.

Move on accommodation

Move on accommodation offers people who have left the streets a place to stay while they find somewhere permanent or long term to live. The accommodation may be run by the council, by a housing association or voluntary organisation, or may be privately run. The kind of accommodation on offer varies: for example it may be a self-contained flat within a hostel, or away from the hostel.

A support worker should visit regularly to see if you are having any problems managing the responsibility of your own home and to offer practical help as you adjust to living on your own.

A worker will help you to draw up a plan to sort out your:

  • health
  • benefits
  • work
  • training
  • housing.

Longer term accommodation

When you are ready to live independently, the staff may contact a council or housing association to help you find accommodation. You might be able to apply to the council as homeless.

If the council can't help, the support worker may be able to help you move into private rented accommodation. Some homeless agencies can help pay for a deposit. They may have links with other agencies that can help in finding somewhere to live.

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This content applies to Scotland only.
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Are you homeless or at risk of becoming homeless?

I need help

The important points

  • No one should be forced to sleep rough, contact your council for help.
  • If the council won't help then call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444.

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us