Short term housing options for young people

If you need to move out in a hurry, or you want to leave the family home but aren't yet ready for the responsibility of a place of your own, there are several short term and 'stepping stone' housing options open you.

Supported accommodation for young people

There are several different types of supported accommodation for young people.

What is supported accommodation?

Supported accommodation schemes provide homes for young people who may need help to adjust to living on their own. Support workers are on hand to offer help with all the aspects of independent living that may seem daunting at first, such as managing money, applying for benefits or finding a job. There are also schemes for young people with specific support needs, such as learning disabilities or drug problems.

Supported accommodation may consist of a number of self-contained flats with a support worker available, or a group house where residents have their own bedroom and share other facilities. Foyers and some hostels (see below) are also a form of supported housing.

How do I apply?

Supported accommodation schemes are often run by housing associations or by voluntary organisations. The provision of supported accommodation varies from one area to another and you may need to be referred by a housing advice centre or council social work department. 

Hostels and move on accommodation

Hostels can provide a useful stepping stone between leaving home and finding a more permanent place to live.

What is a hostel?

Hostels offer temporary accommodation in single or shared rooms. They vary in the kind of accommodation they offer. Some hostels provide an evening meal. Some close during the day. Some have strict rules, for example you may have to come back early at night or help with cleaning chores. Although they are usually seen as a stopgap place to spend a few nights, some hostels will allow you to stay for much longer. Others will help you find somewhere else to live before you move on.

There are a number of direct access and emergency hostels specifically for young people. These offer many different services, such as support in developing independent living skills, help with benefits or advice about moving on to more permanent accommodation.

There are also hostels that cater specifically for young people who are leaving care, most of which require social work referrals.

What is move on accommodation?

Some hostels also offer accommodation in self-contained flats. This is called 'move on' accommodation because it provides a stepping-stone between living in a hostel, where rules can be strict and you may not have much freedom, to living alone. Move on accommodation offers you the chance to live independently, managing your own budget and looking after your home yourself, but with support workers on hand to help you if you have any problems.

How do I apply?

Make sure you find out a bit about the hostel you are applying to. Many hostels will not take young people under the age of 18, whilst specialist hostels for young people may have long waiting lists. In addition, you may need to be referred by a housing aid centre or social work department.

Direct access hostels can offer you a place if you turn up at the door, but it's best to telephone first in case they are full.

How do I find a hostel near me?

Hostels are run by a variety of different organisations, including local authorities, the YMCA and the Salvation Army.


Foyers offer affordable accommodation for young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or in housing need.

Find out more about foyers.

Lodging schemes

Lodging is when you rent a room in somebody else's house. Lodging schemes are usually managed by the council or by voluntary agencies. They have lists of people willing to rent rooms out. You will normally meet the householder before you move in, to talk about ground rules and to see whether you will get on. The scheme's staff usually keep in touch and can help you sort out benefits, work and training problems. They can also help you find somewhere more permanent to live.

You will have fewer rights as a lodger than you would if you had your own flat or house. Read the page on sharing with your landlord to find out what kind of rights you would have.

If you are 16 or 17, you may find it hard to get a place through a lodging scheme. It is also difficult for ex-offenders or those with drug or alcohol problems or mental health problems to get accommodation through a lodging scheme. However, some schemes do offer support to lodgers.

To find out about lodging schemes in your area contact your local council housing department.

Residential voluntary work

Some full-time voluntary jobs come with free live-in accommodation and pocket money. If you are taking a gap year before university or college or have not yet found training or employment, you may like to consider volunteering full-time, either overseas or in the UK.

Residential volunteering is a great way of developing new skills and learning to live independently. You'll also be helping other people and contributing positively to the community, as well as boosting your CV.

Volunteer Scotland has a huge database of volunteering opportunities, including residential projects, and The Big Issue in Scotland also advertises for residential volunteers in its classified section.

Staying with friends

Staying with friends may seem like a hassle-free way of leaving home, but it's only a short term option. You may think you can kip on a mate's sofa until you get sorted with something more permanent, but finding suitable accommodation could take longer than you think, and that sofa won't feel very comfortable after a few days. It won't be long before you'll start to feel in the way and in need of your own space. In addition, you're unlikely to have any tenancy rights, which means your friends can kick you out easily if they get fed up with you.

If you have problems finding the kind of accommodation you need, contact an adviser at a Shelter advice centre or youth advisory agency. They can discuss your housing options with you and offer you advice on accessing the best accommodation for you.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 3 July 2018

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

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