Photo: Rey Trombetta

Impact report: Arts and culture play a key role in recovering from homelessness

Participation in arts and culture can make an important difference in the wellbeing and social inclusion of people affected by homelessness, according to the report The Impact of Streetwise Opera (April 2019 – March 2020) which we’ve published along with an Evaluation Infographic.

“It’s given me a big lease of life, because when I started, I was in a real bad way, I shut myself away for about ten years, with depression. From that, to now, what Streetwise Opera has done for me… I’d be here all day explaining it, it’s really brought me out of my shell, given me a life, given me something to thrive for.”
— Streetwise Opera performer

The report looks at the people we engaged with in the last year, and the impact of Streetwise Opera workshops, performances and other initiatives.

In that period, we worked with 727 individuals (25% more than the previous year), facing issues like homelessness (89%), mental health issues (74%) and disability or physical health issues (63%).

We delivered 198 workshops in arts venues, 173 workshops in homeless centres and almost 100 other activities through our programmes in London, Manchester, Newcastle Gateshead, Nottingham and Teesside. Participants across the country performed to the public on 30 occasions to a total of 6,800 audience members. More data is available in the Executive Summary for the report.

The majority of surveyed Streetwise performers reported improved wellbeing in the short, medium and long terms:

  • A positive change in mood (95%)
  • Feeling a sense of achievement (96%)
  • Improved self-confidence (91%)
  • Feeling more positive about the future (86%)
  • Feeling that attending workshops made them feel like a creative person (94%)
  • Feeling that attending workshops provided greater stability in their lives (87%)

They also reported increased social inclusion:

  • More social contact (87%)
  • Increased interest in the arts (87%)
  • Improved social skills (87%)
  • Finding more friends (90%)
  • Increased sense of belonging (89%)
  • Increased motivation to engage (85%)

Additionally, we have identified some impacts of attending Streetwise workshops over the longer term, including:

  • Feeling physically healthier (81%)
  • Feeling more independent (74%)
  • Helping cope with mental health issues (100%)
  • Helping manage physical health issues (94%)
  • Helping develop stronger relationships with others (83%)
  • Increasing their social networks (85%)
  • Getting involved in another arts or creative group (63%)

We have also identified positive impacts in dealing with issues around being homeless, dealing with drug or alcohol issue, and getting involved in volunteering.

Ending the year with a global pandemic made the need for our work all the more apparent. As the whole country was placed in lockdown, fear over the wellbeing and social isolation of Streetwise Opera performers was felt across our organisation. Many participants face numerous challenges in their lives and depend on our weekly workshops for regular social contact, often describing them as the highlight of their week. Knowing this, we moved quickly to organise a new programme of online activity and an offline offer for performers without access to the internet.

The impact report, put together by Streetwise Opera’s Evaluation and Monitoring Manager, Katie Bruce, is based on a mix of self-reporting by Streetwise Opera performers, through focus groups and individual surveys and other tools, and feedback by support workers and partners. The latest edition if this annual report makes use of a revised Theory of Change and methodology.

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