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Using Data to Prevent Homelessness

Tuesday 12 November 2019 Data Insight & Analytics

Luke Hardy's picture
By Luke Hardy

While the reasons behind homelessness may not have changed a great deal, the numbers are certainly rising. With reports showing that the number of households living in temporary accommodation across England is the highest in over a decade, and households considered to be newly homeless rising by over 3,000 in 3 months according to government statistics – it’s hard to argue with the figures.

With all of this going on, the solutions for tackling homelessness are changing from traditional methods to new emerging tools that can help local governments work on the UK wide housing crisis.

Since the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act councils have been facing both a legal duty to find a person a place to stay if they are homeless, and a duty to help prevent people becoming homeless. These responsibilities come at a time of budget and funding cuts, making it an uphill battle for most councils.

There are three areas that must be considered when starting to look at tackling homelessness and the ultimate goal for councils across the UK - preventing it permanently.

The key areas are people who are at risk of becoming homeless, people that are currently homeless and people that have secured a home but need support in order to not become homeless again. The data collected at each of these stages feed into one another and when they are used well create a full view of the homelessness for that region, helping to support major improvements.

Where to start? – Bring the data together

In order for councils to start truly addressing homelessness in their area, they require data and a way to use, analyse and make decisions off of the back of it.

Having data isn’t something to work for, it is already there, albeit often sitting on siloed systems between departments. So how do we bring that all together?

The first step is bringing in the right analytics system. This may vary from council to council, but the objective is often the same – a way to ingest all of our systems data into one place. Luckily there are a number of systems that can achieve this goal.

While choosing a system, we’re often looking at which departments (and their systems) we need to bring in relevant information from. When it comes to homelessness will include departments such as welfare, community safety, and health amongst others.

What next – visualise it?

Once all of the departments data is brought into one place, we can start to address certain needs, and prioritise accordingly.

In this instance, although we’ve listed 3 areas, we’re actually going to start with the 2nd, this means looking at people that are currently homeless, and therefore looking at aspects such as shelter space, housing availability, healthcare. By combining this data councils can begin to get the whole picture and make sure help is delivered to the people that need it most.

When we start to look at people that were homeless previously but need support to secure their homes and ensure they don’t become homeless in the future, data from welfare, jobs and housing departments may be looked at in order to provide the best support.

By getting a real-time or near to real time analytics in and easy to view system, councils can be more efficient in delivering the right help at the right time.

For the future – reducing homelessness overall

So, what about the first point, people at risk of becoming homeless? With a whole view of data of the 2nd and 3rd points, this gives councils the opportunity to identify common patterns and experiences that residents encounter before they become homeless.

Having a clear view on the patterns of the areas and issues that people go through on their way to finding themselves in the critical situation of homelessness, councils can better use their resources to intervene before this ever becomes the case. Long term this has huge benefits for councils, but more importantly, for the residents they work for by helping ensure they can avoid these dire circumstances.

By using the data solutions available, councils can work better and more effectively on pressing situations, as well as plan for the future for better outcomes for the societies they embed all of their services in.

CACI specialise in implementing solutions in councils that facilitate helping achieve these goals. If you’re looking to implement a data solution to help your residents and community, click below to find out more about how we help local governments on a number of data initiatives.

Read about the adoption of data analytics in tackling homelessness across the UK

Using Data to Prevent Homelessness