In the Atlas, accommodation refers to hostels and supported housing. Hostels and supported housing are usually provided by the voluntary sector and commissioned by local authorities. They form the main accommodation response for people without dependent children experiencing homelessness in England. There are no agreed definitions of hostels or supported housing and the nature of the accommodation and support on offer varies.
Typically, hotel and supported housing projects consist of private bedrooms with shared communal areas including bathrooms, kitchens and living areas; or rooms with their own bathroom plus other shared facilities.
Some services consist of accommodation spread across different sites or buildings, others are based within one building. Support provided in accommodation projects ranges from assistance with benefits, access to activities and planning for move-on to an independent tenancy or other more long-term accommodation.
Some accommodation is targeted at people who have support needs such as long-term experience of homelessness or problematic alcohol use. There are some service for women only or for young people (you can highlight these services using a drop down on the ‘Infographic' Other services are more generic. Most spaces in accommodation are accessed via a referral to the local authority area, but in some cases other organisations or individuals can refer people into accommodation spaces.
Accommodation ‘units’ refers to the number of spaces there are for people within the project or area.
Assessment services have undergone significant changes since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic; most significantly the assessment services which provided basic communal sleeping spaces are no longer operating. Pan London Assessment services are now typically 24-hour services, with associated off-site accommodation provided in dedicated hostel spaces or associated hotel rooms. These are called ‘Turnaround Hubs’. Staging Post accommodation is associated with the Turnaround Hubs are dedicated accommodation for people who need a place to stay while they wait for onward accommodation, having already been assessed. Different Staging Posts provide various levels of support according to client needs. There are other borough specific assessment services which provide onsite accommodation.
Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN)
CHAIN is a multi-agency database recording information about rough sleepers and the wider street population in London. The system, which is commissioned and funded by the Mayor of London and managed by Homeless Link, represents the UK's most detailed and comprehensive source of information about rough sleeping.
CHAIN allows users to share information about work done with rough sleepers and about their needs, ensuring that they receive the most appropriate support and to avoid duplication. Reports from the system are used at an operational level by commissioning bodies to monitor the effectiveness of their services, and at a more strategic level by policy makers to gather intelligence about trends within the rough sleeping population and to identify emerging needs. Reports are published on the GLA website.
The Clearing House provides social rented supported housing in London for people with a history of rough sleeping. All properties are self-contained, one-bed or studio flats and are provided by housing associations as part of the legacy of the 1990 Rough Sleepers Initiative (RSI). Tenants are supported by Tenancy Sustainment Teams (TSTs), who provide a floating support service. This service is a partnership with approximately 50 housing associations who provide the accommodation, two Tenancy Sustainment Teams who deliver the support, and more than 30 organisations who refer people sleeping rough from the street, hostels and other supported housing projects. The partnership is coordinated by the Clearing House team at St Mungo’s on behalf of the GLA.
Day centres for people experiencing homelessness are set up to provide daytime shelter, basic facilities and advice and support with housing and related issues. Facilities have traditionally included hot drinks, food, showers, laundry and internet and are available to people who are rough sleeping or homeless. Day centres often offer various types of support under one roof, including casework and advice, education, training and employment services, and referral and access to health services such as a nurse.
Day centres receive funding from a range of sources, including grant funding from charitable trusts and direct donations from the public.
Day centres included in the Atlas work with other services, including local authorities, to help prevent and relieve homelessness through advice and referral as well as providing basic services. There are other networks of services that are less integrated with local authorities providing food and other support including free food services.
In March 2020 the government launched the Everyone In initiative requiring local authorities to provide emergency accommodation to anyone rough sleeping in their area, regardless of factors such as eligibility for Housing Benefit. Emergency accommodation covers all accommodation types that people who were rough sleeping were placed into including commercial hotels, B&Bs, temporary accommodation and other types of accommodation.
On the main London map we provide the number of people in emergency accommodation as part of Everyone In at a single point in time in June 2020. This information is provided by London Councils. This particular week is used as data collection is consistent across boroughs at this point, ahead of different move-on arrangements/ shifting use of emergency and other accommodation. Data collection was also more established by this point than previously. It could be regarded as the height of the Everyone In programme in terms of rapid, eligibility blind access to self-contained accommodation.
Greater London Authority
The GLA commissions a range of pan-London homelessness services, including the outreach Rapid Response Team, CHAIN and the Clearing House. These services are part of the wider Life Off the Streets Programme.
There are 33 local authorities in London. The maps in the Atlas identify services by the local authority area in which they are located. Most accommodation services are funded by local authorities, but it is important to note that some services are funded partly or wholly by boroughs other than the one in which they are located and some services do not receive funding from local authorities.
In 2023 the Atlas data collection included information about the funding of accommodation services, to identify where services are commissioned and funded by the local authority, they are situated in. This data is being reviewed with a view to including on the live site in future releases.
Outreach (or Street outreach)
Outreach services included in the Atlas are those that are commissioned by the local authority or the GLA and focus on rough sleeping. They operate on the streets at night, as well as during the day, to ensure contact with people sleeping rough. In addition, many areas also covered by the Mayor's dedicated 'rapid response team' tasked with responding to new reports of people new to rough sleeping, to help free up borough outreach teams to focus on existing clients.
Some services are denoted as ‘pan-London’, which means they are commissioned, often by the GLA, to serve all or several of the London local authority areas – for example, the Turnaround Hubs and the Rapid Response Team.
People rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping - and “Single homelessness”
The Atlas focuses on services for people who are sleeping rough or at risk of rough sleeping, who do not have dependent children in their care. The group of services in question is often referred to as ‘single homelessness’ services; this is an imperfect term and is not one we use in the Atlas’ own materials, but is widely used and sometimes found in the more detailed descriptions of services in the Atlas provided by organisations or taken from websites.
Homeless couples without children in their care access services for single homeless people, but it can be hard to find suitable accommodation to stay in together. Most provision is designed to accommodate individuals though some services are flexible in accommodating couples. Households that include children have access to different services; services in the Atlas are not accessible to children.
Homelessness includes rough sleeping and hidden homelessness such as ‘sofa-surfing’. Many of the services in the Atlas focus on people who have experienced rough sleeping, but the homelessness sector increasingly works to prevent rough sleeping as well as alleviate it.
The following definition of rough sleeping is used for the rough sleeper counts and estimates and for CHAIN data (see Methods and data for more about these data sources):
‘Rough sleepers are defined for the purposes of rough sleeping counts and estimates as:
The definition does not include people in hostels or shelters, people in campsites or other sites used for recreational purposes or organised protest, squatters or travellers.
Bedded down is taken to mean either lying down or sleeping. About to bed down includes those who are sitting in/on or near a sleeping bag or other bedding.'
The traditional night or winter shelter model is a basic place to stay for people who would otherwise be rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping, typically consisting of communal sleeping areas (usually with a specific area for women to sleep) along with a range of other services. Services usually included a free evening meal and breakfast, access to showers and toiletries, and a link to benefits and housing advice to prevent returns rough sleeping on leaving the shelter.
Winter and night shelters have been radically altered by Covid-19. Communal sleeping spaces were not provided in 2020/21 longer provided due to infection risks; this change was sustained in the most recent seasons. Some shelters shut; some have provided alternative accommodation in self-contained rooms e.g. hotel rooms; and some changed their service to provide alternative support to people for example providing a food service. In the Atlas we reflect the number of bed spaces/ rooms provided.
Some shelters operate all year round and others operate as ‘winter shelters’ opening for several months during the winter period. The period someone can stay at a shelter varies between services. Shelters often have minimal paid staff with community volunteers to help run the service.
Specialist health services
This map includes clinical health services as well as projects which focus on improving access to healthcare such as Groundswell’s Peer Advocacy. Many projects combine both elements such as hospital discharge projects which have multi-disciplinary teams. Projects are only included when they have a specific focus on people experiencing rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping.