In short, StreetLink is a website, mobile application and telephone service that enables the public to connect people sleeping rough in England and Wales to local support services. If a member of the public is concerned about someone sleeping rough, they can utilise the service to send an alert. The details provided are sent to the local authority or outreach service for the area to help them find the rough sleeper and connect them to support.
Since its initial launch in December 2012, the StreetLink service has received over 92,000 alerts about people sleeping rough, forwarding information and reports to local authorities and outreach teams. Thousands of vulnerable people have been offered vital support or accommodation as a result.
Gareth Thomas, Information manager at StreetLink says “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.
“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. 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.
“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.”
The easiest way to use the service is to download the app from either Apple’s IOS App Store or the Android Google Play and install to your mobile device. To report a rough sleeper, there are three simple steps:
- Advise the specific location for the rough sleeping site. You can do this by using a map to pinpoint the exact location and then providing a written description of the location.
- Give details of the time that the rough sleeper has been seen at the location.
- Provide any pertinent activity information about the rough sleeper that will help find them such as gender, approximate age, what the person looks like, what they are wearing.
In return, you will receive details of the action taken by the local authority when they are told someone is sleeping rough in their area. If you have requested it, an update on what has happened as a result of your alert will be given to you within 10 working days.
Mark Lewis, Technical Support Volunteer at Newbury Soup Kitchen explains “I have had this app installed on my mobile device for the past three years. You will now need to provide your name, email and password to initiate the service and once done, the interface is very intuitive and easy to use. A simple menu system allows users to traverse FAQs, profile settings, news and alerting.
“To alert where a rough sleeper is located, simply follow the three simple steps of providing location, time and activity. Rough sleepers typically find remote locations to bed down and usually sleep at night, the time when the outreach teams operate. It is important that StreetLink needs to know where the person is sleeping, not where they may be begging or involved in other street activity. Activities such as begging does not necessarily constitute the person being a rough sleeper and hence, you can use the ‘I Am Sleeping Rough’ function to provide important local information during the day if needed.”