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Rose Stambe, Ella Kuskoff, Cameron Parsell, Stefanie Plage, Christine Ablaza, Francisco Perales
Assertive outreach is becoming an increasingly salient feature of policy responses to homelessness—and particularly rough sleeping—with the aim of supporting people to access secure housing. Despite its demonstrated successes, existing research points to structural challenges practitioners face in navigating complex and fragmented service systems to provide people sleeping rough with a continuum of care.
This study examines an Australian organisation’s efforts to collaboratively and systematically overcome these challenges by bringing together government, community and service practitioners from multiple sectors in their delivery of an assertive outreach programme. Using an ethnographic research design, this article draws on observations of outreach practices and service provider administrative quantitative data, as well as qualitative interviews and focus groups conducted with assertive outreach service providers. Our findings demonstrate that through flexible and collaborative social work practices, practitioners were able to see people sleeping rough, share information across services and support people into a range of housing, health and other forms of services. Critically, however, structural barriers such as a lack of affordable and social housing prevented assertive outreach from ending people’s homelessness. We foreground the critical implications of these findings for social work.