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Evidence Strength
Insufficent evidence available
Limited reliable evidence
Some reliable evidence
Considerable reliable evidence
cost effectiveness
Insufficent evidence available
Barely cost effective
Reasonably cost effective
Highly cost effective
Insufficent evidence available
At least one study shows negative impact
At least one high quality study shows negative impact
Mixed or insignificant impact
Multiple studies show positive impact
Multiple high quality studies show positive impact

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.

What does the evidence tell us?


There are no studies measuring the effectiveness of Hostels.









Where does the evidence come from?

There are currently no relevant studies.

Which groups does it affect?

No evidence is available on which groups this intervention affects.

Which outcomes does it affect?

No evidence is available on which outcomes this intervention affects

Considerations for implementation

Focus on next-stage housing

If you are implementing a hostel service, ensure your team focus on helping service users to move on to more permanent housing. A shortage of appropriate move-on accommodation may mean that people remain in short-term hostels for longer than necessary, taking up spaces needed by new arrivals.

Prioritise consistency in funding

If you are involved in funding for hostels, aim to provide consistent, long-term funding. Short-term and unpredictable funding can result in variable, sometimes unstable, service provision.

Remove conditionality and barriers to support

If an individual loses their space in a hostel, they may also lose access to wider support, which will reduce the likelihood of a successful exit from homelessness. If a service user starts misusing substances again or fails to attend support sessions, rather than imposing conditions or barriers to support, encourage your team to think about the situation from the service user’s perspective and ensure that they are:

  • Prioritising building open, positive relationships with their service users
  • Being patient and respectful towards service users
  • Taking a flexible and informed approach to finding effective strategies

Give staff flexibility to manage their own time

Allow your team to manage their time proactively in a demanding work environment. Staff should be supported to avoid prioritising service users with the most pressing needs to the exclusion of others.