Fighting homelessness with digital services and mobile apps that maximise resources and results
Mark was a soldier. He slept rough for nine years, until a member of the public saw him and told StreetLink. Now he sleeps in his own bed in his own flat. Homeless Link helps thousands of people like Mark every year. And with Salesforce, it can help even more.
“With Salesforce, we can get closer to our vision of a country without homelessness,” said Matt Harrison, Director of Social Enterprise, Homeless Link. From tracking people’s stories and capturing national data to developing innovative apps and allocating grants, Salesforce helps Homeless Link and its members deliver better services to the individuals that need it most.
“Salesforce makes us more efficient, which means we spend less time on administration and more time on good practice projects, and policy research that help reduce homelessness,” confirmed Harrison.
Customer data under one roof
As the national membership charity for homeless services in England, Homeless Link provides support to around 550 organisations. “We help charities unlock the power of mobile apps and digital services so they can reach more vulnerable people,” revealed Harrison.
More than 8,500 staff at 75 charities use its In-Form app to deliver services to the country’s homeless people. Founded on Force.com, part of Salesforce App Cloud, In-Form enables charities to manage assessments, support plans, progression reports, bed spaces, rents and much more via a single app. Customised workflows and alerts help ensure that no tasks or milestones are missed.
“In-Form provides a complete record of the customer journey,” explained Harrison. “It also enables charities to demonstrate who they are helping and what they are achieving, which is vital for securing future funding.”
In-Form includes a special tool for measuring the soft outcomes of helping homeless people rebuild their lives. “Charities can track how each individual has progressed, and identify any areas where they still need support,” added Harrison.
To ensure as many charities as possible have access to In-Form, Homeless Link is using Experience Cloud for Nonprofits to create a free basic version of the app. Every case logged by every charity via in-Form is captured by Homeless Link in a national data lab; it has already amassed nearly 200,000 anonymous case histories.
The data lab will provide policy-makers and stakeholders with a unique insight into homelessness in England. As Harrison explained: “We will be able to identify which interventions are the most effective, and challenge perceptions about homeless people; homelessness can happen to anyone.”
Support from the streets
Providing support early is crucial to ending homelessness. With StreetLink, another innovative app developed by Homeless Link, members of the public can report when they see someone sleeping rough. “People want to help but often don’t know what to do,” said Harrison. “When we receive a referral via StreetLink, it’s passed on to a local council or agency to respond.”
Since its launch, more than 30,000 people have been referred, with 12,000 of them being found and connected to local services. StreetLink, which encompasses a website, mobile app and a 24/7 phone line, is underpinned by a number of solutions, including App Cloud. “The adaptability and scalability of App Cloud enables us to introduce new apps and services quickly and cost-effectively,” said Harrison.
Homeless Link took advantage of this flexibility when it was asked to allocate £20 million worth of grants by the UK government. “We had a very small administration budget, so our processes had to be as efficient as possible, explained Harrison.
Instead of sending out application forms to its charity members and typing their responses into a database, Homeless Link set up a dedicated portal. “We were able to digitise the entire process – from logging and assessing applications to generating reports and approving grant payments,” confirmed Harrison. “By doing this we were able to keep our grant administration costs down to under 5% for the four-year, £20 million programme.”
Linking it all together
Every process improved and every pound saved means Homeless Link can dedicate more resources to helping its member charities and people sleeping rough.
Sales Cloud and Service Cloud have helped Homeless Link streamline a number of core tasks, including managing mailing lists, and tracking attendances at conferences, events and training courses. “With Sales Cloud, everyone can see the relationship history for every contact at every charity. This provides greater insight into how our members engage with us,” explained Harrison.
Homeless Link also uses Service Cloud to manage support for its In-Form app, with web cases automatically raised in the solution. “We were finding it difficult to keep up via telephone and email,” revealed Harrison. “With Service Cloud, we can respond more quickly and accurately to users’ queries.”
With the details of every support case captured centrally, Homeless Link can flag any recurring issues with the development team to drive future In-Form enhancements. It can also ensure its support fees accurately reflect the time and resources involved.
As well as continuing to improve In-Form, Homeless Link wants to continuously improve how it operates. For example, it is reducing reliance on internal email by using Chatter, an employee collaboration community. The organisation’s CEO has started blogging via Chatter while other team members are using it to exchange information, conduct polls and request feedback.