Women and children are feared to have ended up back in abusive homes after a Derbyshire refuge closed following a row with the county council.
The council said it was forced to shut Queen's Hall Women's Hostel in Borrowash, Derby, after managers failed to apply for a licence.
Officials also said necessary building work had not been completed.
The hostel said it was unable to find alternative accommodation for some families at short notice.
Reverend Paula Hunt, chairwoman of the hostel's management committee, said: "Officials came in last Monday and told us we had to close.
"It was a very distressing two days for the women and children who came here looking for a safe haven and were told they had to leave.
"In some cases we don't know where they went, some may have gone back to the situation they were in."
Ram Paul, head of support services at the county council, said the hostel had to be closed because it was "acting illegally", but options were available for it to re-open.
He added: "We had a long and frank conversation with the hostel chair about the situation.
"We were forced to close the hostel because the organisation failed to get a mandatory licence to operate as a landlord and house women and children.
"A letter was sent on 31 October last year by Erewash Borough Council, the licensing authority, requesting they submit an application, and that hasn't been made.
"The letter also detailed some works that needed to be done to the building to make it safe.
"Women and young children were at risk in that hostel.
"We had contingency plans in place to re-house the women safely."
Ms Hunt said building work has been undertaken since the letter from Erewash Borough Council was sent.