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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, projects consist of private bedrooms with shared communal areas including bathrooms, kitchens and living areas. Some supported housing is self contained but most is shared. Support 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 high support needs such as long-term experience of homelessness or problematic alcohol use. Other services are more generic. Most spaces in single homeless 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 centres

Assessment centres are designed for an initial assessment of the needs of someone who is experiencing homelessness to identify the best onward accommodation option for them. They are sometimes designed for very short stays – for example, the No Second Night Out (NSNO) assessment hubs (see below for definition). Some assessment centres are designed for longer stays of around 30 days and have self-contained bedrooms.

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 St Mungo's, 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.

Clearing House

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

Day centres for homeless people provide daytime shelter, basic facilities and advice and support with housing and related issues. Facilities generally include 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.

Greater London Authority

The Greater London Authority (GLA) refers to the Mayor of London, the 25 London Assembly Members, and City Hall staff. The GLA commissions a range of pan-London homelessness services, including the London Street Rescue outreach team, CHAIN and the Clearing House. The GLA has a Plan of Action to tackle rough sleeping and leads a No Nights Sleeping Rough Taskforce.

Local authorities

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.

No Second Night Out assessment hubs

There are three No Second Night Out Assessment Hubs; they are open every day and night taking referrals from outreach teams operating in London. The dedicated 24-hour assessment hub facilities are staffed by a team of assessment and reconnection workers. These workers liaise with services, negotiate and advocate on a client’s behalf, and where necessary, accompany individuals returning to local services. The ‘hub’ is not an accommodation project, but a place of safety where people can be assessed at any time of day or night in an environment away from the street. There is an intention that no one should spend more than 72 hours at the hub. There are two ‘staging posts’ where clients with more complex cases can be accommodated prior to moving on from No Second Night Out. For more information see the NSNO website.


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. Some areas have their own borough-commissioned outreach team; other areas rely on London Street Rescue (LSR), an outreach service commissioned by the GLA. In addition many areas also covered by the Mayor's new dedicated 'rapid response team' tasked with responding to new reports of rough sleepers, to help free up borough outreach teams to focus on existing clients.


Some services are denoted as ‘pan-London’, which means they are commissioned by the GLA to serve all the London local authority areas – for example, the No Second Night Out assessment hubs.

Rough sleeping

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):

‘People sleeping, about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) or actually bedded down in the open air (such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or encampments). People in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as stairwells, barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or “bashes”). The definition doesn’t include: people in hostels or shelters, sofa-surfers, people in campsites or other sites used for recreational purposes or organised protest, squatters or Travellers.’

(Definition sourced from the Homeless Link website)


Night shelters offer a basic place to stay for people who would otherwise be rough sleeping or at high risk of rough sleeping. Shelters typically provide communal sleeping areas (usually with a specific area for women to sleep). Some shelters operate all year round and others operate as ‘winter shelters’ opening for several months during the winter period. A shelter typically offers a range of services including a free evening meal and breakfast, access to showers and toiletries, and a link to benefits and housing advice to prevent further rough sleeping on leaving the shelter. 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.

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/ defintion. 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.  

Specialist health services

Specialist health services is a new area of mapping for the Atlas 2020. This 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 who are rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping.  



London’s homelessness services are temporarily running significantly adapted services due to Covid-19 - these changes are not reflected in the Atlas data.