A website for a charity for the homeless, www.whitechapelcentre.co.uk, seen on 5 February 2017, stated "NO SECOND NIGHT OUT ON THE STREETS. TELL US ABOUT A ROUGH SLEEPER" and featured a telephone number. Text below stated "Have you seen someone sleeping rough? Are you worried about someone who may be sleeping on the street tonight? If you know someone who could use our help, simply complete the form below, call us on XXXX XXX XXX (low cost) or e-mail. The Whitechapel Centre is co-ordinating the Liverpool outreach response to rough sleeping as part of the No Second Night Out campaign. By providing us with information about someone you think might be sleeping rough you will be helping us ensure no one ever needs to sleep for a second night on the street. Our vision is that no one will live on the streets of Liverpool and no individual arriving on the streets for the first time will sleep out for more than one night. Through dedicated outreach services we will provide a rapid response to ensure appropriate solutions to rough sleeping. Help us to achieve this and ensure no one sleeps on the streets of Liverpool for a second night by telling us about anyone you think may be sleeping rough ..."
A poster on the website stated "THERE MAY BE A MILLION REASONS WHY SOMEONE SLEEPS ROUGH FOR ONE NIGHT. THERE IS NO REASON FOR ANYONE TO SLEEP ROUGH A SECOND NIGHT. TELL US ABOUT A ROUGH SLEEPER ON XXXX XXX XXX AND WE WILL DO THE REST".
The complainant challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied the charity provided housing to individuals so that they did not have to continue sleeping rough, whereas he understood they provided a more general service that homeless people could use.
The Whitechapel Centre said they provided general homeless services for people who were living on the streets, including housing support and advice, supported accommodation, outreach services, training and enablement services and volunteering. They explained that the 'No Second Night Out' standard referred to in the poster was a service that they delivered on behalf of Liverpool City Council, which was intended to ensure someone arriving on the streets for the first time did not spend a second night sleeping rough.
The Whitechapel Centre said that to prevent someone from spending a second night out, they needed to understand why that person had ended up living on the streets. By establishing the cause of an individual's homelessness they were able to provide a personalised solution that worked for the individual. They offered a range of solutions depending on the person's needs, which included advice and support to negotiate a return to former accommodation (where that was an option), support into treatment or hospital services, or to gain access to new accommodation. They managed some accommodation themselves and worked in partnership with a range of providers of other types of accommodation. Where they were unable to secure a same-day solution to rough sleeping, they provided interim accommodation solutions, for example, a 'Cold Weather Shelter', which was available to all rough sleepers. They also offered a 'Sit-Up Service' which was a communal room in a nearby hostel which had members of staff on duty throughout the night. They explained that if they were unable to place someone in the right accommodation that day, they could access the Sit-Up Service and return to the centre at 8 am the following day and wait for accommodation to become available. They worked to ensure that individual stayed at the Sit-Up Service until suitable accommodation was found.
They explained there were a few occasions where they were limited in what they could offer to someone, for example, in relation to failed asylum-seekers and some EEA Nationals who had no recourse to public funds. For people with no recourse to public funds who had no access to welfare benefits and no means to pay for accommodation, they offered funded reconnection to the individual's place of origin and helped to secure accommodation for them. For EEA nationals with no recourse to public funds, they helped those individuals to try to secure employment and source accommodation, for example, via the Missionaries of Charity. The Whitechapel Centre acknowledged that some individuals did not want to be reconnected to their place of origin or were not employment-ready and, in those circumstances, individuals they had tried to help may spend a second or subsequent nights sleeping rough.
Liverpool City Council reiterated the Whitechapel Centre's comments that "No Second Night Out" was a standard, rather than a service. They said it was based on the principle that there were various reasons why individuals may have to spend one night out on the street, but there was no reason for anyone to spend a second night out, because there were services to help them move away from the streets. The main service was an outreach team from the Whitechapel Centre, which was funded by the Council, who actively went out looking for people who were sleeping rough. The team had access to a range of services, also funded by the Council, including accommodation and emergency shelter. They also provided a building-based service where people could have hot meals and showers, and access to laundry facilities and computers. Individuals were also supported to write CVs and seek employment. For people from outside the city, including from overseas, when it was safe for the person to return home, there was a reconnection offer. Help was also offered in relation to wider issues such as substance misuse and mental health problems.
They explained that the ad was designed and developed by the Council to encourage everyone in the city to take some responsibility for helping rough sleepers and to publicise the telephone number members of the public could use to alert the outreach team to an individual sleeping rough. The team would then go out, find the person, and facilitate whichever solution was needed to bring them indoors. They said it was important to be aware that housing was not the only solution for rough sleepers. Some may already have somewhere to stay and the reasons for them sleeping rough were complex and could include mental health or substance misuse issues. That was why it was important that every individual helped by the service was offered a personalised solution.
Liverpool City Council said that in addition to the outreach service, they ensured they met the "No Second Night Out" standard in other ways. For example, the Housing Options Service was used to assess those who may be statutorily homeless and to try and prevent homelessness from occurring. In addition, they commissioned, monitored and funded 750 units of temporary accommodation for people at risk of homelessness or who had other vulnerabilities. They explained that rough sleepers had priority access to those services through dedicated ring-fenced beds. They also offered Personalised Solutions Funding which could be used to support people to leave the streets, for example by clearing rent arrears. Furthermore, they offered simplified access to temporary accommodation services and to other support for vulnerable people through MainStay.
The ASA noted that the ad did not explicitly refer to accommodation services being provided by the Whitechapel Centre. We noted that the ad was a call to action and encouraged members of the public to call the telephone number provided to report any individuals sleeping rough so that the Whitechapel Centre could help to get them off the streets. We understood that "No second night out" was a standard rather than a service. However, we considered that consumers were likely to interpret the ad, particularly the claims "No second night out on the streets" and "By providing us with information about someone you think might be sleeping rough you will be helping us ensure no one ever needs to sleep for a second night on the street" to mean the Whitechapel Centre would assist those individuals reported to them so that they did not have to sleep on the streets for another night.
We understood that the Whitechapel Centre's outreach team responded quickly when notified of rough sleepers and they would actively go out onto the streets to find them. We also understood that they offered a range of assistance to those individuals, depending on their particular needs and reasons for sleeping out on the streets. One of the solutions that could be offered was accommodation, either in a property they managed or managed by a third-party provider. Whilst that might not be an appropriate or available solution for everyone, the Centre also offered temporary accommodation throughout the night for all individuals (the Sit-Up service and cold weather shelter), until such time as a more permanent solution could be found. Because of that, we considered that the ad was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.