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Streetlink pricks the conscience

22 April 2013

‘Homelessness is a notoriously complex issue to solve,’ says CHERYL CAMPSIE. ‘Since we launched StreetLink in December, enabling the public to help via a hotline and website, over 1,500 rough sleepers have been found across England and now are in contact with services.’

StreetLink is a new hotline and website which enables concerned members of the public to help connect a rough sleeper with the local advice and services. The charity consortium, Homeless Link, working with homeless charity, Broadway, asked Forster to develop a brand, launch and communicate the service.

With experience going back to the launch of The Big Issue 20 years ago, we decided to position StreetLink as an effective way to take direct action but not overpromise about what the service can deliver, i.e. it is not an emergency response service.

We knew the service was more likely to be successful if it focused on target audiences who are most likely to be concerned and take action on rough sleeping. And that we would attract more of that concern if the service talked about the increase in rough sleeping without directly ascribing this to benefit cuts. This point also played to the fact that StreetLink was funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), as part of a commitment to end rough sleeping in England.

We developed this brand positioning and visual identify based on insights from quantitative and qualitative (focus group) research with the public and professionals. We unpicked perceptions of the issue, the role of the public when it comes to homelessness, barriers and/or motivators to using such a service, as well as reactions to the potential names, strapline and illustrations.

Using research findings into motivations and barriers to using the service, as well as the language to inspire action, we developed a compelling media package which included:

  • a simple call to action: everyone urged to save the StreetLink number – 0300 500 0914 – and next time you see a rough sleeper, make a call
  • Omnibus research showing the need for service; this showed half of adults feel guilty when they see a rough sleeper and don’t know the best way to help
  • quantitative data from the pilot, ‘No Second Night Out’, which showed the StreetLink approach was four times more successful at helping rough sleepers than traditional services
  • strong case studies provided by two former rough sleepers helped by the public
  • influential spokespeople including Mark Prisk, Housing Minister; Matt Harrison, lead on the StreetLink project, and Howard Sinclair, CEO, Broadway
  • a Government announcement about the new service timed for early December and a cold snap
  • partnerships with organisations who could reach key audiences likely to take action ranging from Addison Lee taxis to the Royal College of Nursing and the Salvation Army.

The campaign launch far exceeded media coverage and partnership campaign KPIs.Coverage focussed in part on encouraging debate about  the central issue of the confusion and guilt that the public feel when they see a rough sleeper, -leading to a headline in the Independent ‘Don’t Give the Homeless money, call this helpline says Minister at charity launch’.

“Our research showed that the public care about rough sleeping but are uncertain about what they can do” said Benedict Knox, Head of Communications for Homeless Link. “The high use of StreetLink just shows what’s possible if you provide a practical solution to harness peoples’ desire to act”

Overall, we had 18 national stories included opinion former radio debates on R4 Today Programme, R2 Jeremy Vine show and R5 Live Richard Bacon show; interviews with the Housing Minister on Daybreak, Sky, BBC and ITV London throughout launch day; features in Guardian Society, the Mirror, Independent, The I, New Statesman and Evening Standard. Social media activity was driven by support from high profile twitter users, including Eddie Izzard (2,800,000+), Eliza Doolittle (170,000+), Stooshe (191,000+) and BBC Radio 4 (210,000+) who tweeted the StreetLink number to followers.

In the first 24 hours after launch, over 200 people contacted StreetLink, double the anticipated number.  By the end of March 2013, over 15,000 contacts had been made to StreetLink and over 1,500 people had been found and were in contact with services

Ultimately, we achieved a clear positioning –  an effective way to take direct action but not an emergency response – which was critical to success. As a result, StreetLink earned widespread support from the homelessness sector for the new service.