A crucial part of ending rough sleeping is preventing it occurring. Homelessness agencies play a role in preventing people losing their homes, preventing their situation from deteriorating and preventing repeat homelessness.

Context

Service user from St Basil's.  Photo by Robert DavidsonThe rough sleeping strategy, ‘No One Left Out: communities ending rough sleeping', has a central focus on preventing rough sleeping:

  • Action 1 is the promotion of prevention of rough sleeping in all areas through effective housing options and a strengthened safety net. This includes access to the private rented sector, testing a supported lodgings programme, the enhanced Housing Options Trailblazer programme and considering reform of the homelessness legislation.
  • Action 2 is the supporting of best practice in commissioning of services that prevent and tackle rough sleeping. This includes a Prevention Mapping Toolkit, identifying the need for new specialist accommodation and enhanced training and qualifications for homelessness workers.

Under the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities published in July 2006, local authorities have a duty to secure that advice and information about the prevention of homelessness, are available free of charge to any person in their district. However, in research by Crisis in 2009, “No one's priority: the treatment of single homeless people by local authority homelessness services” found that councils were turning away single homeless people rather than preventing homelessness via advice and information.

Homelessness agencies play an important role in preventing homelessness and rough sleeping. They do this in different ways:

  • Initial prevention (stopping it happening in the first place) – this is often referred to as ‘stopping flow’
  • Preventing escalation  (preventing homelessness becoming rough sleeping, or rough sleeping becoming entrenched behaviour) - this is often referred to as ‘reducing stock’
  • Preventing reoccurrence (preventing people who have formally slept rough from doing it again by increasing resilience)  - this is often referred to as ‘reducing returners’.

Solutions

The role of homelessness services is to find flexible solutions that meet immediate needs and stop rough sleeping in the short term. Crucially however, it also involves identifying and tackling the root causes that lead to homelessness so that rough sleeping is prevented in the long term.

Services that support homeless people have undergone enormous changes. The Places of Change agenda has encouraged homelessness services to focus on moving service users forward, including improving their access to meaningful occupation and training and employment opportunities. Many organisations also focus on building resilience in individuals.

CHC, for example, is moving away from the traditional view of Day Centres to become a Community Resource, a place where local residents will be encouraged to work with CHC on preventing homelessness. More importantly the charity wants to raise the level of expectation of clients and the local community regarding high quality support, outcomes and prevention.

In order to identify the gaps and opportunities for prevetnion, Communities and Local Government asked Homeless Link to develop the Prevention Opportunities Mapping and Planning Tool (PrOMPT). The tool enables local partnerships to consult directly with those people in their areas who were recently, or are currently, sleeping rough. It helps partnerships to identify key points along these journeys where effective interventions could have prevented those individuals from being and staying in those situations, and plan accordingly.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, in the US, has published an article evaluating the effectiveness of one state’s homelessness prevention programme. It provides not only information on what works in homelessness prevention, but also a methodology for evaluating programmes that could be useful for local authorities and service providers here. Read the article here

Further information

Good quality housing advice plays a key role in preventing homelessness, both in keeping people in their homes and helping them to find alternatives. See our advice page for more information.

Homeless Pages gives details about publications, good practice and research on prevention of homelessness.

Crisis is currently funded by Communities and Local Government to improve homelessness prevention measures through the provision of a national advisory service for local authorities and the voluntary sector on best use of the private rented sector (PRS).  Part of this work is the development of a dedicated website to act as a portal to good practice guidance, model documentation and research from across the sector. Through this site you are also able to access a database of PRS access schemes across the UK.

The Communities and Local Government National Youth Homelessness Scheme has a section on prevention that includes early information and mediation.

Homeless Link's Resettlement Handbook has good practice guidance on resettling homeless people well which can prevent them becoming homeless again.

Homeless Link provide several relevant training courses - please see our Resettling homeless people and How to manage and prevent evictions training course pages for more information.