Helping Rough Sleepers off the street

The review & findings of the report: Helping Rough Sleepers off the street.

Tackling problem of homelessness and the related issues were one of the government's main objectives when they came into power in 1997. This report focuses on the issue of rough sleeping. It attempts to look at all angles of rough sleeping from the causes, the by-products of rough sleeping & the effectiveness of support currently provided.

The Rough Sleepers Unit (RSU) effectiveness is looked at and how they and external agencies that help provide support for rough sleeps are actively attending and dealing with the dilemma's that are experienced by rough sleepers the associated problems. The evaluation is required to look at what has and hasn't worked since the inception of the initiative so that further policy & strategy changes can take into consideration the findings and better ways of dealing with rough sleeping and homelessness can be developed. (ODPM, 2002, pg7).

The report aim's coincide with the objectives. It looks at different data from selected areas which have high numbers of rough sleeping such as:

  • The links between rough sleeping, begging and petty crime
  • The numbers and profiles of rough sleepers, and
  • Looks at the continuing support needed through aspects such as re-housing, substance abuse and health problems and the what changes the external agencies are making

This has been achieved by the collection of statistics both at local and national levels, interviews and assessments with rough sleepers and literature that looked at homelessness/rough sleeping before. The report wants to conclude by providing answers on how best to move forward with reducing homelessness entirely in the UK.

The methods of obtaining information for the report meet the aims of the report, but this is at a minimal level. There is a broad data capture range from literature, interviews and figures from a number of sources. This provided the information needed to meet the criteria, but for a report that would affect how homelessness is dealt with nationally, I would have expected more input from groups who have day to day experience dealing and analysing homelessness and rough sleeping. Input and literature from sources like Shelter and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation will have provided a more detailed data that methods used in the report did not do to the standard that should be required for such a project.

The information collected will always be different depending on the area and the time it was taken, however the report has been restricted for a number of reasons.

The evaluation has only focused on the area's that have high levels of rough sleeping and does not look at it in a national context. This report is supposed to look at the effects of the RSU and the other agencies on rough sleeping national. Whilst it is logical to concentrate on the area's that suffer high levels of homelessness, including the rest of the country will create a more all-inclusive report that can provide specific information on specific areas. With a view to use the findings of the report nationally, the need for a report that reviews all areas could be more effective.

The evaluation has to use information provided by RSU's as this report looks at their effectiveness'. The lack of qualified records from other sources to properly assess their success does mean that there isn't a realistic evaluation.

The majority of literature used in the report has been provided by the same authors who are writing this report. This could allow personal perceptions and interpretations of what they believe certain issues to be and may not provide a conclusive and fair report. The lack of a varied and experienced literature base does not allow the report to fully explore the aims.

This report used a qualitative data sourcing for the majority if findings and how the results were produced. For a report such as this it needs a balance of both qualitative and quantitative information so that relationships between data can be formed. Statistical information is in the forms of tables and graph would allow any reader to relate the stories, experiences and data from interviews and literature to numbers in an area, as a result identifying patterns and trends.

The report suggested a use of the Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) theory of change model .The purpose of a KAP is to explore changes in Knowledge, Attitude and Practices of the community, in this case rough sleepers (Kaliyaperumal, 2004, Pg 1). As Weiss stated in a report by Anderson (2004) which stated "a key reason complex programs are so difficult to evaluate is that the assumptions that inspire them are poorly articulated. The theory of change wasn't established at the start of the report, but I looked at all the different models and the KAP correlated to the aims of the report.

The performance indicators that were used to carry out the evaluation were relating heavily to the aims of the review. For example: "the role and effectiveness of CATS's and specialist staff in helping people move off the street (ODPM, 2002, Pg9). The analysis carried in London showed CATS's had helped two thirds of rough sleepers successfully and that these numbers were satisfied with their work. The evaluation also pointed out that the figures varied between areas and there were questions over the consistency of the method used by CAT's in obtaining their targets. (ODPM, 2002 Pg 13 -15).

Conclusion:

The report has looked at all the aims and has attempted to answer them. It has only touched the surface as far as a report/evaluation goes and does not reflect a document, whose findings would be considered nationally for addressing the homelessness agenda.

There is not enough concentrated information for a report of this importance and it seems very light. The lack of a variety of information in the appearance of tables and charts with the mixture of the qualitative information already provided does not allow the reader to fully understand the scope and seriousness of rough sleeping. Tables and charts help clearly identify measurable entities, which can be monitored and understood more easily than in a qualitative method.

The report has examined and justified the need for cooperation from a number of agencies outside of the RSU in tackling rough sleeping and the related issues. The report does identify the support needs and factors that are attributed to rough sleeping. Highlighting substance abuse and mental health are the result of homelessness and not the main reason why people are sleeping rough. This input can allow future strategy to include support mechanisms that will accommodate such factors and help the success rates of rehabilitation as well as lowering the numbers of rough sleepers dramatically. It realises that continual support is necessary to stop those rough sleepers helped returning to the streets,

The report lack of a broad input of sourced information has not helped produce a comprehensive review of the rough sleeping situation. To not include any contributions from organisations such as Shelter and the JFR who have produced reports and information with respect to homelessness and rough sleeping gives the report a lack of strength. The JRF (2000) released an article on Rough Sleepers, which looked at different geographical areas outside the scope of this report. In Edinburgh and Glasgow they carried out twice as many interviews as there were carried out in the whole of this report and their findings established rough sleepers we resorting to begging and selling The Big Issue instead a life of crime to survive. That is a significant difference to the numbers that had been interviewed in this report. (ODPM, 2002, Pg55). The need to involve agencies in this type of report is so important as this is a national problem and the need for collaboration, in order to gain a solution is key. The review should have been delivered nationally, so that information was specific and relevant to areas and not generalised as per the findings in the report.

The report is and almost report answering all the aims but to a minimum. For this report to be considered for guidance it would need to be re-worked and have more extensive research carried out so that the right changes are made in the right places at the right time. Limiting case studies to specific areas does not provide the real numbers and information about rough sleeping or those that are suffering from mental & or are abusing substances. To reduce rough sleeping there has to be wide-ranging reviews of how services in every area are working that way strategies produced can specifically look at the all factors that may not have been considered initially such as employment opportunities and education.

Reference List:

Anderson, Andrea. A (2004) Theory of change as a tool for strategic planning: A report on early experiences, The Aspen Institute: Roundtable on Community Change. October [Online] Available from: http://www.theoryofchange.org/pdf/tocII_final4.pdf [Accessed 11th October 2009]

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2000) Rough sleepers resort to begging in the streets as 'alternative to crime [Online] Available from: http://www.jrf.org.uk/media-rocentre/rough-sleepers-resort-begging-streets-%E2%80%98alternative-crime%E2%80%99 [Accessed 15th October 2009]

Kaliyaperumal, K. (2004) Community Ophthalmology, Guideline for Conducting a Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) Study [Online]. Available from: http://laico.org/v2020resource/files/guideline_kap_Jan_mar04.pdf [Accessed 11th October 2009]

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (2002) Helping rough sleepers off the streets. London: The Stationery Office.

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