A report by Crisis Research & Evaluation team for Homeless Link.
Evaluation of the StreetLink project: report published
StreetLink, the service designed to help the public to connect a person sleeping rough with local services, was launched in England in 2012. StreetLink is funded by grants from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Greater London Authority and, from January 2016 when the service expanded in Wales, the Welsh Government. StreetLink is run in partnership between Homeless Link and St Mungo's.
Last year, four years on from the launch of StreetLink England, we felt the time was right to commission an independent evaluation of the project against its original objectives to improve the response to individual rough sleepers and the wider local systems that support rough sleepers off the streets. We were delighted to be able to appoint the respected Research and Evaluation team from Crisis to undertake the work which got underway in August 2017 (1).
The main objectives and questions of the evaluation were to assess the extent to which StreetLink:
- Provides the public with a means to take appropriate action when they see someone sleeping rough
- Provides early intelligence to local homelessness services about new rough sleepers
- Helps get rough sleepers off the streets faster
- Highlights good practice and helps to improve systems for dealing with rough sleeping
The Crisis team took a detailed five-stage approach to the evaluation methodology comprising:
- Literature review and interviews with key informants
- StreetLink and rough sleeping data analysis
- Online surveys with members of the public, local authorities and street outreach teams
- Focus on case study areas
- Review and ideation workshops
StreetLink evaluation context:
Since the start of the StreetLink project at the end of 2012, there has been a steady increase in the number of alerts received and sent on to local services, from 10,500 in 2013 to 32,000 in 2016. The high levels of use of StreetLink by the public, and the outcomes it achieves, supported a decision to redevelop the tool in 2017. The redevelopment project reflected on what was working well and what could be improved. When the evaluation of StreetLink began in earnest, this project was already well underway. With this in mind, the evaluation looked at the StreetLink of 2012 – 2017 and not at StreetLink in its current incarnation which we think has addressed some of the areas for improvement identified.
Evaluation key findings:
Some of the key findings of the evaluation produced by Crisis were:
- Most members of the public who have used StreetLink in England and Wales have a positive overall impression of it and believe that it is a quick and easy way for members of the public to connect a rough sleeper with relevant local services.
- There was consensus across different stakeholder groups regarding a lack of awareness about the existence of StreetLink amongst members of the public and others (businesses, community groups, etc.) NB an unprecedented surge of alerts to StreetLink in February and March 2018 and nearly 100,000 sign-ups to the StreetLink Community since December 2017 suggest that this awareness has greatly increased in recent months.
- StreetLink is being used regularly by a variety of different groups in addition to members of the public for whom it was originally designed, including rough sleepers themselves to self-refer, by homelessness organisations to refer their clients, by other organisations where homeless people may present (e.g. food banks), and even by local authority Housing Options teams to refer people who present as homeless to them. The perception of StreetLink amongst those homeless people who have used it to self-refer in England and Wales is less positive than among members of the public.
- The extent to which local authorities use StreetLink to direct their work varies greatly between local authority areas. This ranges from outreach teams being commissioned to be largely directed by StreetLink referrals, to outreach teams who additionally have their own phone number to receive referrals.
- Outreach teams which use StreetLink in England consider it to be effective in enabling them to find and support new rough sleepers, and the majority of both outreach teams and local authorities feel that StreetLink is providing them with early intelligence about new rough sleepers.
- The main challenges with using StreetLink for outreach teams and local authorities are poor quality referrals, including duplicate referrals and insufficient information with which to be able to find people. NB Changes to the StreetLink systems have aimed to address these issues.
- The effectiveness of StreetLink to get rough sleepers off the streets faster was difficult to ascertain from discussions with national stakeholders. While it was generally recognised that StreetLink did provide a means to identify new rough sleepers, whether it resulted in them getting off the streets quicker was less clear.
- The evaluation has demonstrated that StreetLink is understood and is implemented in a range of ways across different operational markets. The impact of this is that the effectiveness of the platform is reliant on the extent to which it is advertised and promoted in local areas, how StreetLink interacts with commissioned outreach services, local authority strategy and practices, and how it is used by people experiencing homelessness and other homelessness services.
- In many of the case study areas, StreetLink is viewed as an intelligence tool that can help the local authority and commissioned outreach services to identify new rough sleepers or those hidden from view about whom they would otherwise not know.
The interviews, surveys and ideation workshops carried out in the evaluation demonstrated an appetite to maximise the potential of StreetLink and improve and develop current service delivery. Members of the public and statutory and non-statutory services show support for the concept of StreetLink and were keen to engage with the evaluation questions about practical ways in which this could be improved. The recommendations focused on the areas of StreetLink which have not recently been changed after the evaluation was commissioned and can be seen in detail by reading the full evaluation below.
We are grateful to Crisis’ Research and Evaluation team for their hard work in conducting this study and for the time taken by all stakeholders who contributed to the study.
(1)The evaluation was a Homeless Link commissioned project, i.e. it was not funded by the grants received from the GLA, MHCLG and the Welsh Government.
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