Introducing the new and improved StreetLink
Blog posted by: Gareth Thomas, wednesday, 6 December 2017.
Five years after its launch, StreetLink's website streetlink.org.uk and mobile apps have been redeveloped to offer improved features.
Street homelessness is on the increase. From 2010 to date, rough sleeping in England has grown by 134%, proving that it is one of the biggest challenges that our society faces.
To help tackle the rise in rough sleeping, Homeless Link developed the StreetLink service, in partnership with St Mungo’s. StreetLink is a website, mobile app and phone line that enables members of the public to connect people sleeping rough in England and Wales to local services and support.
StreetLink’s success over five years
StreetLink was developed in the second half of 2012 and launched that December. In its first five years, the service has received over 92,000 alerts about people sleeping rough and passed the information on to local authorities and outreach teams. Thousands of vulnerable people have been offered vital support or accommodation as a result.
Time to reflect and renew vision
The high levels of public use of StreetLink and the outcomes it achieves indicate that it is a valuable addition to the national rough sleeping response infrastructure. Since 2012, we have made several minor changes to the StreetLink service, but we felt that now was a good time to redevelop the tool, reflecting on what works well and what could be improved.
StreetLink is an innovative platform, which uses technology, backed up by a small staff and volunteer team to engage the public in addressing a significant social issue. If requested, we contact the person who made the alert to let them know what happened due to their involvement. This is an important part of the service offer and this model has helped generate and sustain 12,000 StreetLink committed supporters.
StreetLink also provides excellent intelligence for local authorities and voluntary organisations about the numbers and precise sleeping locations of people arriving on the streets. Most areas outside of London don’t regularly record rough sleeping figures, and our data has helped some cities to target their investment and services more effectively.
New and improved features
Experience gained over the life of StreetLink and data analysis have guided the new website and mobile apps’ design.
Improved mapping function
An improved mapping function will allow users to drop a pin in a map onto the precise location of the person sleeping rough; they will be shown the address they have selected and asked to give a short description of the location. This will narrow the margin for error, ensuring the outreach team successfully locate the person.
Experience has shown that alerts sent at night – indicating where the rough sleeper is ‘bedded down’ – greatly improve the chances that the street outreach team will find them. Teams work overnight, so if an alert is sent in the middle of the day, the person is likely to have moved by the time support arrives.
Search nearby services
The new ability to search a list of nearby services will mean users can direct rough sleepers seen during the day to support that can be accessed straight away, which is likely to be a better option for the individual than waiting for the outreach team to come out to them at night.
Another new feature is our StreetLink Community portal, which we will ask users to register to join for a couple of important reasons. Firstly, our data shows that we can gather better quality information about people sleeping rough – increasing the likelihood they can be found and supported – when users provide their email address and give us permission to contact them. Secondly, it is important that we are able to provide people with feedback on the result of the action they took.
Users will be able to login to StreetLink Community to check on the status and outcome of their alert(s) and view statistics on all alerts for their area and nationally.
Local authorities and outreach teams will themselves now benefit from an integrated, secure platform from which to manage all their referrals, and improved data reporting tools.
The rebuilding of the StreetLink website and mobile app will enhance the public’s experience of using the service and enable more people to engage effectively and more regularly with StreetLink. It will also ensure important cost and time savings, improving the efficiency of the service, and ultimately the support provided to people sleeping rough.
StreetLink is funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Greater London Authority, the Welsh Government and public donations. The redevelopment of the website and app was made possible by funding from Salesforce.org.
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