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How to Create More Effective Messages on Homelessness in the UK (2017)

Homelessness remains a critical social problem because of a shortage of affordable housing, the lingering effects of a deep economic recession and government cuts to housing and other social benefits. Crisis has commissioned the FrameWorks Institute to undertake a study examining public perceptions of homelessness and how they can be better communicated. The report refers to phase one of the project.  

 Key findings: 

 Through interviews with experts, members of the public and media content analysis the report found that: 

  • The third sector must change the way it frames and communicates about homelessness. Until it does the public will continue thinking about homelessness with a narrow focus and the media will continue to tell stories that further reinforce these patterns of thinking. 
  • Currently the public does not think about homelessness in the context of broader economic trends. When members of the public see people sleeping rough, read news stories about abused women living in refuges or hear about immigrants living in overcrowded housing, they don’t make the connection to larger economic forces such as rising housing costs, wage stagnation and the unemployment rate. 
  • At the moment, public thinking about homelessness is overwhelmingly centred around individualism (the idea that a person’s circumstances are shaped by their willpower, character and choices), related concepts of charity and morality, and the belief that the only solution to homelessness is direct remedial services such as clean beds and hot meals 
  • Whilst a key solution to addressing homelessness is prevention, it is not talked about by third sector organisations or the media and therefore there is little public knowledge about how prevention works.  
  • Third-sector organisations are missing framing opportunities to counter individualism with systemic stories. The research shows that people are able to think in other, more productive ways about this issue. Communicators should strive to widen the lens when telling stories about homelessness, by including discussion of the economic, political and social conditions that shape people’s experiences of it.  


O’Neil, M., Gerstein Pineau, M., Kendall-Taylor, N., Volmert, D., Stevens, A. (2017) Finding a Better Frame: How to Create More Effective Messages on Homelessness in the United Kingdom. FrameWorks Institute.