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Longhurst Group colleague helps in ‘biggest ever’ homelessness research project

A colleague from one of our homeless shelters has been working alongside government researchers as part of the biggest research project into rough sleeping ever undertaken.

Rudy Vacca, Caseworker at The New Haven in Peterborough, spent time working with officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on the project.

It is asking service users whether homelessness services are working for them, and gathering detailed information on how they came to sleep rough.

Rudy worked closely with researchers at The New Haven over several days, as well as spending a day at Fair View Court and a morning at the Foyer.

He coordinated the researchers, advising them on how best to use their time in Peterborough, as well as working with interested residents at The New Haven to complete questionnaires. 

Those who participated in the questionnaire valued the opportunity to be heard and also received a £10 Boots voucher as a token of thanks.  

Rudy said: “Due to my experience working with individuals who are homeless, my manager felt I was the best candidate to assist in the surveys after they were approached by Housing Needs.

“I wanted to be involved due to my knowledge of homelessness as I knew these surveys could potentially generate more funding for homelessness services which is much needed due to the impact it is having on local authorities and communities.

“It felt like I was empowering the participants to have a voice, something which often doesn’t happen. We worked with seven residents at The New Haven and they all reacted really well to the opportunity.”

The research project involves working with service users – if they consent - to complete a detailed online questionnaire, which can take over an hour to complete.  Those who complete the questionnaire are asked if their personal details can be used by researchers in a data matching exercise. 

This exercise combines all information held on the individuals by five different government departments. Combining all this information provides a full picture of how the individuals have interacted with the departments to date.

Homeless man in shop doorway

It felt like I was empowering the participants to have a voice, something which often doesn’t happen. We worked with seven residents at The New Haven and they all reacted really well to the opportunity.

The five departments are the Department for Work and Pensions, Public Health England, Ministry of Justice, NHS Digital, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

This collated information can include an individual’s benefit history, medical history, any criminal history, and whether any official homelessness applications have been made. 

A final part of the research is asking participants if they are happy to be contacted again in six months’ time to see if their situation has changed in anyway. Each part of the research project is based on informed consent and can take place only if services users agree to it. 

The information gathered in Peterborough will be combined with data collected in many other areas across England.  In the future this information will be used by central government to determine how best to fund homelessness and rough sleeping initiatives.

Researchers were grateful for Rudy’s assistance and said: “Rudy, many thanks for all your help over the last two weeks.

“Thanks for making us feel so welcome and for introducing us to the great work that is being achieved at The New Haven, Fair View Court, and the Foyer.

“We really appreciated your help and guidance. As researchers we value the opportunity to spend time away from our office in Westminster, meeting service providers and service users, and were particularly impressed by your dedication and professionalism. 

“Wishing you and your colleagues all the very best in your vitally important work. Thank you.”

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