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Housing

What happens when you refer a rough sleeper with StreetLink?

Homelessness charity Crisis conducted an independent review of how the app has performed since the project launched in 2012

Referral app StreetLink has given the general public a more immediate and direct way to connect with support services since launching in 2012.

Homeless Link, the organisation behind the app, has grown in visibility with record numbers of referrals this year. A total of 3,600 people got in touch to report people sleeping on the streets – 2,032 in London –  as the Beast from the East battered the UK in early 2018.

Now, the services behind StreetLink have invited homelessness charity Crisis to independently review the service – which allows users to pinpoint the location of rough sleepers to ensure authorities can intervene and help the homeless person in question.

The study revealed that five per cent of referrals since 2012 – a total of 4,367 – led to a person being housed, whether temporarily or permanently, in England – with that figure rising to eight per cent (3,472) in London and falling to one per cent (14) in Wales.

The service also engaged a rough sleeper with services in 5,768 cases across England – seven per cent of referrals – and in five per cent of cases in London (2,449) and 20 per cent in Wales (219).

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The difficulties of turning referrals into meaningful action can be seen in the figures with the person identified being already known in 18 per cent of cases across England, 16 per cent in the English capital and in 24 per cent of referrals in Wales.

Problems were also evident with rough sleepers not able to be located in a third of referrals (36 per cent) across England and over half of London cases (52 per cent).

Meanwhile, local services failed to respond to 13 per cent of referrals in England and 17 per cent of Welsh cases but in London immediate action was not taken in just two per cent of cases – a total of 958.

Across the board, surveys submitted to Crisis found that there was a largely positive impression of StreetLink with many citing that it was “a quick and easy way” to connect rough sleepers with services.

The app proved popular with a wide range of stakeholders, including food banks, and homelessness charities and organisations as well as self-referral from rough sleepers themselves.

However, homeless people who used the service were less positive about it than members of the public with almost half of the rough sleepers who self-referred disagreeing that the app was a “quick and easy way” to connect.

“Four years on from StreetLink’s launch, we commissioned an independent evaluation of the project against its original objectives: to improve the response to individual rough sleepers as well as wider local support systems. The evaluation produced some useful learning and confirmed the areas that our experience showed needed improving,” said Matt Harrison, director of StreetLink and Homeless Link.

“Prior to this in 2017, given increasing public use of StreetLink and its valuable contribution to supporting rough sleepers, we took the decision to redevelop the tool. The new service, launched in December, already addresses many of the areas the evaluation of the old system identified for improvement.

Main image: StreetLink

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