September 8, 2020

Centre for Homelessness Impact and Cardiff University lead new major trial

Centre for Homelessness Impact

An innovative partnership has been awarded funding from Economic and Social Research Council, which is part of UK Research and Innovation, to provide valuable insight into tackling homelessness and reducing COVID-19. By working directly with local authorities and people experiencing homelessness, the research team will run a unique and timely study  to inform decision-making and improve people’s outcomes. 

The study, the first of its kind in the UK, is led by the Centre for Homelessness Impact and academics at Cardiff University. Designed as a Randomised Controlled Trial, it will robustly assess which housing options are most likely to provide positive outcomes.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, many people experiencing street homelessness were offered emergency accommodation to facilitate safe self-isolation. As local authorities now begin to make more suitable housing arrangements for those currently living in hotels and other emergency accommodation, this study will provide valuable insights into tackling homelessness and reducing Covid-19.

Participating local authorities in England will support the research team to follow individuals  over a period of 12 months to evaluate how they are doing, looking at housing stability, health and wellbeing.  

The aim is to reduce the rate of Covid-19 infection as well as the risk of returning to homelessness for former rough sleepers.

Dr Ligia Teixeira, CEO of the Centre for Homelessness Impact said: “As we stand on the precipice of a world fundamentally changed by coronavirus, we must take this opportunity to use evidence to improve outcomes for those most affected. It is our hope that in conducting this trial, we can give local authorities that are operating with limited resources, the tools they need to ensure that people are not returning to the streets.” 

Dr Peter Mackie, the study’s Principal Investigator, based at Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in radical changes in policy and practice responses to homelessness. For the first time homelessness has been treated as a crisis. This collaborative study, which seeks the views of homeless people, will provide new insights into the effectiveness of local authority responses and will help to inform future policy and practice for the benefit of those affected by homelessness.”

The study will include three main elements: 

  • An impact evaluation, to understand which types of accommodation have better outcomes;
  • A process and implementation component, to understand barriers and facilitators and differences in how different accommodation models are used in different local authority areas; and, 
  • A cost component, to understand which types of accommodation provide the best value for money. 

The study, titled Moving On, has been awarded £660,000 funding from UKRI as part of their funding programme for short-term projects addressing and mitigating the health, social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak. It is being delivered as a collaboration between the Centre for Homelessness Impact, Cardiff University, Alma Economics, and a group of six partner local authorities. 

The project will kick off in August 2020 and is expected to run for 18 months. It counts the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government (MHCLG), Bloomberg associates and Comic Relief among its supporters. The project will benefit from the expert advice of Tim Aubrey and Dennis Culhane who are leading academics in homelessness interventions from the University of Ottawa and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively.

Dr Rebecca Cannings-John, the lead for the impact evaluation from Cardiff University’s Centre for Trials Research, added: “Moving On is the first trial to be conducted in the UK with people experiencing homelessness and we are delighted to work with the School of Geography and Planning and the Centre for Homelessness Impact to enable it to happen. This is an important study that will add to the research base, to help inform which housing options could provide the best outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.”

Councillor David Gibson, joint chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Housing Committee, said: "We believe that there isn’t a single intervention that can tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, there needs to be a citywide partnership approach in the context of the national approach. As we finalise our 2020-2025 homelessness strategy it is imperative that we have the evidence of what works at the centre of our plans. By participating in this study, we aim to ensure all of the people who have been in temporary accommodation during the pandemic, are allocated a safe, secure home, and if needed, an appropriate level of support to create a good quality of life, and that what we learn from this experience can improve our homelessness services across the board."

Cllr Zulfiqar Ali, lead member for Adults and Health for the London Borough of Newham said: “Since launching our rough sleepers strategy last year, we’ve made considerable progress towards decreasing the number of people sleeping on the streets of Newham. As a local authority, moving towards a robust, evidence based approach to helping those in our communities who are street homeless is central to our commitment to deliver services that truly work for the people who live in the borough. By taking part in this study, we can build upon the good work that has been done, particularly our efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, said: "We are delighted to be taking part in this study. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for all local authorities, and our approach to homelessness services has had to adapt quickly. We’ve been working closely with the Centre for Homelessness Impact over the last year to build our capacity to use evidence and data to achieve breakthrough results in our efforts to tackle homelessness. The new study will make a big difference to our understanding of what works for whom locally, helping us to target limited resources even more effectively."

Cllr Kieron Wilson, Housing Portfolio Holder for BCP Council said: “This is a really exciting opportunity to work with the Centre for Homelessness Impact to achieve better outcomes for both our residents locally, but also nationally, as we contribute to a research gap, understanding the effectiveness of settled accommodation, particularly in preventing COVID-19 infection. In order to understand a subject or issue, you need to study it, and Homelessness is no different, except in the sense that there is often a larger void in the amount of academic material on it. So to be a part of this unique study the first of its kind in the world is an honour. And it is through this research that we would hope to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society.”

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