A London homelessness prevention pilot project is seeing success in keeping people off city streets.

A research project found that about 90 per cent of at-risk families diverted from homelessness with the help from the Rotholme Women's and Family Shelter remained housed about 18 months later.

The Prevention of Homelessness Among Families research project looked at a pilot project at the shelter that was focused on preventing the use of a shelter altogether.

The research project was held in partnership between the city, Western University's Lawson Health Research Institute and Mission Services of London. 

"To keep families in their homes we have a 'whatever it takes approach,'" said Gordon Russell, director of shelters for Mission Services, in a release. "Once families have left their homes and belongings, it is very difficult to escape homelessness."

Behind the numbers

Several participating families who called the shelter were immediately paired with a housing crisis support worker. 

The worker then helped the families work out alternatives including granting extra time to pay rent or even a longer stay. Homelessness was prevented in 97 per cent of the cases from the pool of participants. 

"What we were looking at was that if it was possible to divert people — families in particular — from homelessness," said lead researcher Cheryl Forchuck.

Forchuk said researchers wanted to know whether homelessness was being prevented rather than delayed. Therefore, they followed up with the families after 18 months.

They found that 90 per cent of the pool of participants that were diverted from homelessness remained housed.

Forchuk said it shouldn't be assumed that the 10 per cent of people they couldn't reach are homeless. She said they could have found housing in another city.

While precise numbers on family homelessness in London are unknown, the results show that early intervention may help with long-term homelessness prevention.