Does raising public awareness about rough sleeping make a difference?

Monday, 15 December 2014 - 10:14am

Something quite spectacular happened in October 2014. The good people of Bristol did more than any other area in England to try and connect people sleeping rough to local help.  

Photograph: Harshil Shah (Flickr)
Photograph: Harshil Shah (Flickr)

The back story

On anyone night, there are an estimated 41 people sleeping rough on the streets of Bristol. Many other areas in England report similar numbers.

Bristol City Council funds a number of services to help those who are sleeping rough. No one plans to sleep rough and many individuals are simply unaware that local support exists – both at the prevention stage, and when the worst happens and someone ends up sleeping on the streets.

So what did Bristol do?

The council decided to promote StreetLink, the phone-line, website and mobile app that enables members of the public to help connect rough sleepers to local services.  

StreetLink had told us that from January to March 2014, there were zero alerts about rough sleepers in the city. We decided to remedy this situation by making sure more residents found out about StreetLink.

What happened?

Adapting StreetLink's communications toolkit, we launched a campaign to help raise awareness about what the people of Bristol can do to help rough sleepers. 

Activity included:

  • Communication to council staff, as well as local traders and council tenants
  • Posters and cards displayed across the city at council venues
  • Advertising on the councils digital screens
  • Website information and promotion on the council home page
  • A social media campaign, encouraging local tweeters to spread the word
  • Article in newsletters and other publications going out to Bristol citizens
  • Work to raise awareness in the local media

The result

In September, StreetLink passed on ten alerts from local residents to services about people they were concerned were sleeping rough. In October this rose to 74 alerts, a seven-fold increase.

Bristol residents sent more alerts than any other area of England - an achievement for which we’d like to say a massive thanks.

More than that, it also meant that those rough sleepers that the public contacted StreetLink about were also able to receive help.

StreetLink sent the referral information through to Bristol’s outreach team, which also happens to be run by St Mungo’s Broadway. They work all year round helping new and longer term rough sleepers off the streets and into accommodation.

However, for the period January to March, this extra boost meant that positive outcomes of contact with rough sleepers 69%, which is above the national average.

We’d love it if more Bristol residents used StreetLink. Sign up to the #SleepWell campaign and help make more people aware of how to help rough sleepers in 2015.


Be like Bristol

Do you want your local community to follow in Bristol's footsteps and use StreetLink to help connect more rough sleepers with help? Download your promotion pack and start spreading the word.

Talk To Us

Gillian Douglas

Gillian Douglas

Service Manager, Bristol City Council Housing Options

Gillian is the Service Manager for Bristol City Council Housing Options