Rough sleeping is a primary focus of a number of this month’s resources. For example, Public Health England’s Health Matters explores the scale, causes and consequences of rough sleeping. It cites 2018 Rough Sleeping Statistics from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), indicating that official estimates via street counts of the number of people rough sleeping on a single night in England fell by 2% between 2017 and 2018. MHCLG’s impact evaluation of the Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI) 2018 suggests that this reduction might be connected to RSI funding; an analysis comparing changes in street count numbers in the 83 areas which received RSI funding to 83 areas which did not suggests the RSI led to a significant reduction in the overall number of people sleeping rough between 2017 and 2018.
A process evaluation of the RSI is due to be published in the coming months and we await its findings with interest. This will help to shed light on how the RSI has achieved or contributed to reductions in rough sleeping in areas which received funding. It also has the potential to identify learning for policies, strategies and programmes aiming to reduce rough sleeping or improve outcomes for people who experience it.
We would expect findings from the RSI process evaluation to resonate with existing research on support for people who are homeless and/or experiencing multiple disadvantage, including findings from our independent evaluations of Making Every Adult Matter and Blackpool Fulfilling Lives. For instance, existing research highlights the importance of accessible, flexible, integrated and person-centred support based on trusting relationships in engaging and supporting individuals. Crucially, the evidence to-date suggests that for reduced rough sleeping and improved outcomes to be sustained, individuals need support on a medium to long-term basis. This improved support to individuals must also be accompanied by system-level changes in areas such as strategic planning, commissioning, support pathways and workforce development. Therefore, the RSI and similar initiatives are likely to contribute to sustained reductions in rough sleeping only if they are able to facilitate the development and implementation of sustainable interventions and systems change.