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Shelter Discovery.

The Curve and Hive IT were commissioned by Shelter to carry out a Discovery research project to better understand the needs of users of Shelter, and to identify options for the future direction of the service to support their users and identified business needs.

Shelter Report
Who they are
Shelter is a charity that exists to defend the right to a safe home. Shelter helps people locally, over the phone, online and through legal advice.
What they do
Shelter provides personalised advice and support for anyone in Great Britain facing homelessness or housing issues. Shelter also campaigns for housing justice.
England and Scotland
Use research to provide an evidence based roadmap with defined next steps to inform and provide clarity on supporting the wider Triage project vision; to have the capability to assess the urgency of user needs and transition users to a channel that will provide an empowering user experience.


Shelter had worked with the Fidelity Foundation to understand how they might free up their oversubscribed national helpline to help those in an emergency access their service. Shelter required a more unified triage to help direct people, based on the severity of their problem and how urgently they needed to be seen, to the appropriate Shelter service.


We provided a detailed report on our research, analysis and our recommendations. Our report outlined the needs of Shelter’s users and identified options for the future direction of the service to better support Shelter’s users and business needs.

“We have achieved a huge amount in such a short space of time and that is a real testament to your tireless work behind the scenes, enabling us to work together and being flexible around our tight deadlines!”
Jemima Stevens (Digital Project Coordinator at Shelter UK)

Our Team

As part of this project, our team consisted of technical, user research, service design and project management from all three organisations (The Curve, Shelter, and Hive IT). Having Shelter support us with both user research, service design and project management was a great asset to the project, whilst The Curve provided expert technical knowledge supplemented through their previous work with Shelter.

Throughout the project, we worked hard to build a cohesive, effective, functioning team that shared responsibility equally and who were equally invested in the project. The foundation for building this was an initial workshop that explored our ways of working, ground rules, and our shared vision for the project.

Shelter Team

Understanding Shelter

Integral to this discovery was understanding Shelter, it's services and it's users. A large part of the work we did involved user research, starting with people working within Shelter’s organisation.

Shelter have 5 main channels:

  • Website
  • Webchat
  • Helpline
  • Social Media
  • Social Hubs

We attempted to interview all of the service team leaders across these different channels to get an understanding of what their services do and how their systems work.

We also wanted to know what challenges they currently faced and how the different channels integrate together and connect up. In total, we interviewed 10 Service Team Leaders and Stakeholders.

We then went on to talk to 11 of their Internal Advisors, who provide advice to people who are homeless or have housing issues. We also took part in one shadowing session to better understand the service Internal Advisors provide.

Interviews conducted by type statistics

Engaging with Users

As mentioned, Shelter supported us with additional User Researchers and a Service Designer who also engaged with External Service Users (people who had been advised by Shelter’s Internal Advisors). In total, we spoke to 34 External Service Users.

Speaking to the users of Shelter was actually very challenging in places. We heard some upsetting stories - the kind of things that Shelter’s advisors hear and help with on a daily basis. We appreciated how this could cause an additional emotional load and burnout and so we provided recommendations on how this could be prevented alongside the changes we were recommending. It is important to note that Shelter already works very hard to support their advisors' mental health and well being given the difficult job they undertake.

Alongside engaging with users, we documented the problems that users faced captured as personas, user needs and user journeys.

Service Design

The next step, which ran in parallel with the research, was looking at what the service could look like in the future. We developed a series of changes and a plan to implement them, resulting in a single, coherent service to help users access the most appropriate channel for their needs while reducing the time advisors spent gathering information, all without reducing the invaluable level of service provided.

Service Design Illustration

Analysis and documentation

The research and design work we carried out with Shelter allowed us to put together a comprehensive report, explaining what we did, what we found and our recommendations for the future.

Some of our key recommendations included:

  • Implement a triage system by asking users a series of questions on helpline, digital advice, webchat and social media to understand the priority of their cases.
  • Create a set of priority levels and associated service levels.
  • Identify the highest priority cases immediately on all channels.
  • Pass on all information gathered to advisors.
  • Trial and validate these recommendations quickly and simply.
  • Reduce service siloing to enable triage and manage advisor stress.
  • Create and empower a team responsible for implementation.
  • Build on the work done and knowledge gained in this project.

What's Next?

We thoroughly enjoyed working with The Curve and Shelter on this project. Despite being fully remote, we successfully created a cohesive and productive team.

Not only have we been able to provide a report with recommendations for Shelter, but the project also enabled us to share with Shelter how we conduct our research and vice versa, which we hope has been of as much value to Shelter as it has been to us.

Throughout this discovery project, we got to better understand how crucial Shelter’s services are to people and we feel privileged to have been able to help in supporting Shelter’s cause.

Shelter’s team were great to work with and we hope to get the opportunity to work together again in the future.