Shelter fights the UK’s housing emergency with better data for better outcomes

By Laura Ventura

Like many countries around the world, the United Kingdom is experiencing a housing emergency. More than 17.5 million people in the UK are impacted — living in overcrowded, dangerous, unstable, or unaffordable housing. Over 250,000 people are homeless, and on any given night, thousands of people sleep on the streets.

Shelter is a leader in seeking social justice and a fairer housing system in the UK. Faced with the challenge of maximizing the impact of its limited resources, Shelter is now harnessing its data to drive insights to better support the fight against homelessness. By using Talend, the organization now has broader capabilities at a lower cost, enabling them to do more with less.

Measuring and expanding impact

Mother and son smiling in front of an apartment buildingMother and son smiling in front of an apartment buildingShelter has been running helplines and raising money for many years, but recently the size and scale of the homeless crisis has been increasing rapidly. “We had to become a more data-focused organization so we could measure, understand, and increase our impact,” said Graham Barnes, Head of Data and BI for Shelter.

 The initial goal: create a data warehouse that could aggregate and analyze all of Shelter’s data sources, income systems, and records — so the organization could have a single view of its constituents and supporters.

“There was a strong desire to become more data driven when I joined the organization,” said Mr. Barnes. “We had CRM, ETL, and email marketing systems, but they were limited and expensive. We needed high-quality data that was accessible from a single source so we could measure our impact — both regionally and nationally. I’m very pleased to say we selected Talend, because Talend has more flexible capabilities at a more affordable price. Talend is growing with us.”

Mr. Barnes’ team has grown to six, and using Talend, the organization has now integrated 14 income systems, 28 data feeds, and more than one-million records. The initial Talend-based deployment that took 12 months to build, test, and deploy is now live and providing timely insights.

Two-pronged attack in fighting homelessness

“Talend is instrumental in supporting our two-pronged attack,” said Mr. Barnes. “We’ll soon be better able to serve people in immediate need. We will have much more granular information at a regional level — as well as nationally — which will help us focus our limited resources. By integrating our income-generation systems, we’re becoming much more effective at meeting those needs. More importantly, we’re better connected to our supporters, so we can also help give voice to those in need. We’re hopeful that these new capabilities will enable Shelter to gather an additional 250,000 supporters for our cause of defending people’s right to a safe home.”

“Second, we can now use data to strengthen our fight for legislative change,” Mr. Barnes continued. “With better information, we can work more effectively with lawyers, local governments, and landlords to effect positive changes in the law — thereby preventing people from needing our services in the first place.”

Making the future brighter for those in need

Mr. Barnes noted that his team is continuing to explore new options for using data to drive better outcomes. “We are starting to use AI and machine learning for segmentation and propensity modeling,” he said. “Automation of core processes such as CRM, campaign management, and income reporting, plus a single view of supporters, makes it easier to track and manage both income-generation and movement-building activities. In particular, they enable us to improve our supporter welcome journeys and keep in touch with those participating in our major events, giving their time, or joining our cause in other ways.”

Shelter also aspires to continue building its capabilities to enable deeper insight into local housing stock and identification of emerging issues at both regional and national levels. Shelter will now push to see where new legislative policies, affordable housing supply, and other factors might impact future demand for their services so they can direct their limited resources accordingly.

“By enhancing data quality, automating more processes, and improving our ability to use that cleaned-up data, we’re now better positioned than ever to communicate with our supporter base and serve the millions of people across the UK affected by the housing emergency,” explained Mr. Barnes. “Talend is absolutely central to our ability to more effectively manage our data.”