Methods and data
London’s homelessness services operate across 33 local authority areas. Delivered by hundreds of providers, the services include the provision of thousands of bed spaces for homeless people. The Atlas aims to provide an overview of information about these services alongside crucial data about rough sleeping.
The Atlas is primarily aimed at a professional audience in the homelessness sector – those working in commissioning, policy, research, strategy, service delivery and business development.
The Atlas is useful in:
- providing an up-to-date overview of provision in individual boroughs, sub-regionally or pan-London
- demonstrating the local response to rough sleeping (e.g. in response to local rough sleeping figures) and the investment in this area
- informing initial analysis about needs and gaps in provision
- generating ideas for new partnerships
- comparing provision, e.g. with neighbouring boroughs.
If you are using the Atlas to find a service for yourself or someone you are supporting, check the Homeless Link website for further details of the service and/ or contact the service directly before attending. Inclusion in the Atlas does not constitute endorsement of a service by LHF or Homeless Link.
The Atlas focuses on services that are primarily targeted at people who are rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping who do not have dependent children; this group of services is often described as being ‘single homelessness services’. The fairly tight criteria for the Atlas will help to ensure that it is as comprehensive and consistent as possible and to enable some time-series analysis in future years. Services included work in partnership with local authorities to address homelessness.
Quality of data
A wide range of data sources are used to ensure maximum quality and completeness. The Atlas provides an overview of homelessness services (specifically those working with households and individuals without children) in London. Most local authorites and service providers responded to our data collection requests; where services did not provide data or the data provided was incomplete, Homeless Link sought publicly available information.
Data sources and data collection
The methods and sources of data are described below. A fresh round of data collection will be undertaken each year and a new release of the Atlas will be issued at the start of each year. Information that is incorrect or has changed can, however, be updated at any time and we encourage people with updated information to contact us.
Please also refer to the Glossary for definitions.
Rough sleeping figures
The rough sleeping figures presented are publicly available figures sourced from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Greater London Authority (GLA). Both these data sets use the same definition of rough sleeping, which was last revised in 2010. See ‘rough sleeping’ in the Glossary for the full definition.
MHCLG data on rough sleeper counts and estimates: Rough sleeping counts and estimates are single night snapshots of the number of people found sleeping rough in local authority areas. The figures represent the number of people seen or thought to be sleeping rough in the local authority area on a ‘typical night’ – a single date chosen by the local authority between 1 October and 30 November. In London, most street counts are done on a single night in November to avoid double-counting. London local authorities tend do a physical count rather than producing an estimate. In a physical count small teams of volunteers lead by the local authority search areas that are known or likely to be occupied by rough sleepers. Street counts are viewed as a useful measure of rough sleeping over time and cover the whole of England. The methods are, however, subject to limitations – for example, it is not possible to identify all rough sleepers because some people are very hidden and weather conditions can affect the number of people in visible locations. More information about rough sleeper counts and estimates can be found on the Homeless Link website.
CHAIN data: The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) is a multi-agency monitoring system used by outreach teams across London to record the contacts they have with people sleeping rough. CHAIN data is regarded as some of the most reliable information on rough sleeping available nationally. It has the benefit of being used and updated consistently over time, as opposed to relying on a snapshot taken on a single night. As with all measures of rough sleeping there are limitations – for example, when people stay in very hidden or difficult to access sites and are unwilling to disclose where they stay. The system is commissioned by the GLA and managed by St Mungo’s. Regular reports are published by the GLA; the information presented in the Atlas is taken from these reports. CHAIN records more than just rough sleeping information and more details can be found on the St Mungo’s website.
Information about accommodation services, assessment centres, Housing First services, day centres and night shelters / winter shelters
Information about services for has been collected using a range of methods. The existing Homeless England directory produced by Homeless Link was the starting point for building up a comprehensive database of services in 2020. This directory is a useful resource for people who need more information about a service and can be found here.
For the current release, a full survey of local authorities, homelessness organisations was undertaken asking them to ensure proposed information for inclusion was up-to-date and complete. This was undertaken by phone and email.
Other means of obtaining data were used as appropriate. For example, Housing First England (a Homeless Link project) assisted in the identification of Housing First projects and the Shelters Network run by Housing Justice helped by promoting the data collection to its members. Data on the number of Clearing House units per borough was provided by St Mungo’s.
Information about the GLA-funded rough sleeping services was sourced from the Mayoral Services Briefing which can be found here.
The new dataset about specialist health services for people who are rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping, was developed drawing on a range of public sources - for example, information about primary health care services was the King's College HEARTH study. We particularly welcome feedback about health services that are not yet included in the Atlas; it is a new area of mapping which we will seek to improve year on year.