A collaboration between Campbell UK and Ireland and CES

Joining the dots between homelessness research, policy and practice

Academic Collaboration


CES and Campbell UK and Ireland worked together to connect homelessness research with policy and practice.

  • In May 2021, the Centre for Effective Services hosted an event ‘Using Evidence to Tackle Homelessness’ to bring together researchers and practitioners who specialise in providing and incorporating evidence into policy and interventions to tackle homelessness.
  • The aim of the event was to enable experts in homelessness research and policy to share valuable insights and – as recommended by practitioners themselves – to facilitate collaboration between organisations working in this field to improve the use of high quality evidence in policy and practice.
  • The research team from Campbell UK and Ireland shared insights from three systematic reviews, commissioned by the Centre for Homelessness Impact. Housing service practitioners from Ireland and Northern Ireland, implementation experts from CES and policy makers in ROI responded to the call to action to make use of the rigorous evidence shared.

The Challenge

The challenge for researchers and policy makers is how to best use existing evidence to ensure that interventions for preventing homelessness can be implemented successfully.

The main issues explored at the event were:

  1. Synthesising global research on homelessness interventions and strategies to make it easier for decision makers to find and use evidence.  
  1. Assessing evidence-based interventions’ compatibility with the Irish context
  1. Mapping policies within the Irish context to ensure interventions are complementary, and
  1. Ensuring interagency collaboration for fast and effective implementation of evidence-based policies  

The conference reflected on the impact and opportunity that the COVID pandemic provided for rapid systems change in Ireland. The pandemic demonstrated that system-wide change could be successfully implemented in response to evidence-based policies, which creates potential for addressing homelessness in Ireland.  

What We Did

CES worked as a knowledge broker, supporting connections between researchers, senior practitioners and policy makers to increase the impact of research evidence applied to real social problems. We established a partnership with Campbell UK and Ireland and engaged the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Housing First, Dublin City Council to share insights from research and implementation of homelessness policies in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The series of three systematic reviews, conducted by Campbell UK & Ireland team, were presented by senior researcher Dr Jennifer Hanratty, who has since joined our team in CES. The reviews found that:

  1. Accommodation with no conditions and high levels of support is most effective in improving housing stability and health outcomes.  
  1. Hostel accommodation damaged housing stability and health outcomes - in other words, hostels were worse than doing nothing.  
  1. Discharge programmes can substantially improve housing stability  
  1. Designing or rethinking the delivery of support services (rehabilitation clinics, mental health services, etc.) to remove barriers for those facing homelessness led to more successful interventions.

From a policy and practice perspective, Grainne Long, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive held that basing policy on robust evidence generates broader impacts.  It also enables decisions to be made that ensure interventions have the impact they are intended to have.

Grainne identified lessons learned from the COVID pandemic that she hoped could be integrated into future homelessness policies and interventions:

  1. Sharing resources enables multiple agencies to work together quickly
  1. Integration between housing and support services (housing and health specialists) improves the impact of each
  1. Systems change is possible, and
  1. Balancing physical standards and management standards of accommodation will be an issue requiring further investigation.

Bob Jordan, National Director of Housing First, Dublin City Council presented on the transformational power of evidence-based practice for government and local authorities, practitioners, and service users. He called for Government to be open to testing new homelessness models based on evidence (such as converting hostels into apartments) and emphasised the importance of co-design and peer support between practitioners and service users. By facilitating a ‘community of practice’ at a local level, and systems change at a national level, he argued that homelessness processes in Ireland could be reconfigured, supported by evidence-based best practice.

CES Director for Evidence-Informed Policy and Communities, Majella McCloskey drew on our knowledge of implementation science. She highlighted the need to consider policies and services that already exist to identify how new evidence fits, and where and how it can be implemented.  The steps to including evidence in a practical way are:

  1. Understanding the full ecosystem of local, government, and third sector providers across jurisdictions to assess the context
  1. Assessing readiness – the measure of whether staff, organisations and systems are competent and supported to implement new interventions, and
  1. Implementation – identifying and addressing critical enablers and barriers to an intervention’s success

The Impact

This popular event identified three requirements for the successful implementation of evidence-informed policy and practice to address homelessness:

  1. The relationship between healthcare and homelessness requires further resourcing and research
  1. An enabling culture and context is required for successful implementations of interventions
  1. Trust and empathy of service providers is vital for effective support and retention of homeless people accessing services

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Research and Evaluation Policy Development Implementation


You can watch the event here

View the slides here

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