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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Centre for Homelessness Impact launches new flagship evidence tools


CIH Scotland's policy and practice manager, Ashley Campbell, attended an event on 30 May to find out more about the work of the Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI) and the launch of their new flagship tools.

The Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI) was established by Crisis and Glasgow Homeless Network, supported by philanthropic funding and is expected to be a fully independent organisation by spring 2019. CHI’s aim is to gather and build upon existing research, learning from what works (and what doesn’t) to ensure that homelessness policy and practice is based on evidence.

What are the new tools?

The team at CHI has been working with partners to collate and map out existing research on homelessness, highlighting areas where we already have a lot of data and where the gaps are. The tools have been developed to be user friendly and accessible, to help decision makers navigate through what can often be seen as daunting academic publications, too far removed from the realities of frontline service delivery. The tools will also help to filter out the studies that aren’t relevant to the particular subject in question, helping to support quick, evidence based decision making.

The Evidence and Gap Map allows users to search for evidence by category. There is a handy video to explain how the tool works and how to use the data – but basically, big dots on the grid indicate where a lot of research has been carried out, smaller dots or no dots at all indicate gaps in the evidence. Click on any of the dots and you will be presented with a list of relevant research and links to the findings where possible. This is the first in a series of maps, focusing on impact evaluations and effectiveness reviews.

If you check the Evidence Finder you will be able to see exactly where research has been carried out. A quick glance shows that the majority of the research that has been collated has been carried out in North America. In fact, only seven of the 206 studies included in the tool were carried out in the UK, indicating that more work might need to be done to tailor approaches to our local context – we know that what works in another country will not necessarily work here without being adapted but there are still valuable lessons to be learned. 

The Intervention Tool gives a summary of available evidence categorised into nineteen different intervention types, such as ‘Housing First’ or ‘Psychologically Informed Environments’. More catergories will be added over time as the project progresses. At a glance it tells you the strength of the evidence available for that subject area, whether there is evidence of cost effectiveness and impact.

Why is this important?

The establishment of CHI and launch of the new tools comes at a really important time in the development of our approaches to housing and homelessness. There is a political will to improve the way that we deal with homelessness, backed by £50 million funding from the Scottish Government over the next five years.  The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) is drawing to a close, having made some ambitious and potentially transformative recommendations. The focus now will be on implementation.  

At the same time, we all know that organisations are all under pressure to make the best use of resources. The tools will help to ensure that we learn from what is working (not just what we think is working) and learn how projects or approaches can be replicated or adapted for different circumstances. The tools can also indicate to researchers and funders where more work needs to be done, where efforts and resources should be focussed.

What happens now?

The tools are just the starting point for this project and are intended to grow and develop as more data is gathered. As mentioned above, the tools demonstrate where there are gaps in the evidence that need to be filled. During the launch event we discussed the need for housing and homelessness organisations to embed evaluation in our processes going forward. We know that there are already loads of great projects and initiatives happening across Scotland but we need to be able to identify the approaches that are working well and capture the evidence so that learning can be shared.

Go and check out the new tools online, find out what research is already available and what you think is missing.  The team at CHI want your feedback and there are links on the website to allow you to make comments on the tools and suggestions on what the priorities for future research should be.  These are tools for the sector, we need to use them and help to build the evidence base.

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