What is this intervention?
Hostels for homeless people are designed provide short-term accommodation, usually for up to two years depending on available move-on accommodation. In the UK they are typically shared accommodation projects with individual rooms and shared facilities including bathrooms and kitchens. Hostels have staff on site 24 hours a day and during the daytime provide support to residents on issues including welfare benefits and planning their move from the hostel into more medium to long-term accommodation.
There is no single agreed definition of a hostel and there is great variation within hostel provision. Hostels are often commissioned by local authorities to work with defined groups and this determines service offer. For example, a hostel working with people with high support needs with a long history of alcohol dependency is more likely to provide meals and intensive staff cover than a hostel for young people with low support needs, where the emphasis might be instead on access to education, training and employment. A hostel specifically for women may have an all-female staff team.
Common types of support offered in homeless hostels include planning to move to medium to long-term accommodation; practical help with form filling and ensuring full access to welfare benefits entitlements; and referrals to enable access to other services such as substance misuse services. Hostels often have rules that residents have to sign up to – for example, relating to access for residents’ guests and the use of alcohol and drugs.
In the UK the cost of staying in a hostel is usually covered by welfare benefits with supplementary charges for food (if applicable) and cleaning of communal areas if this is provided. When someone is not eligible for welfare benefits, because they are working, hostels quickly become unaffordable. A referral from a professional, such as a street outreach worker, is often needed to access hostel provision, although some hostels do accept self-referrals.
What is its goal?
The goal of homeless hostels is to provide temporary accommodation with support for people who would otherwise be homeless and to help residents to move on to a more sustainable housing solution.
Hostels provide people with access to shelter and support meeting the immediate needs of individuals and providing a first step towards more settled accommodation.