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Identifying People who it Costs Less to House than to Leave Homelessness

February 16, 2016 / By Daniel Flaming

Even with ramped-up investments in affordable housing called for by the new city and county homeless plans, affordable housing will still be is in scarce supply for many years. We need an objective system for prioritizing who gets to be housed.

The Silicon Valley Triage Tool uses data held by local government agencies to prioritize homeless individuals based on their public costs. It uses demographic, medical and jail information to accurately identify acutely distressed homeless individuals who are most likely to have ongoing high public costs. These are individuals for whom the solution of housing is cheaper than the problem of homelessness.

What makes the tool valuable is being able to distinguish accurately between different types of homelessness and predict outcomes. Homelessness is not ‘one size fits all.’ A few individuals are likely to remain homeless and use public services extensively, while most others have short stints and use fewer services.

This tool builds on work done in the 10th Decile Project here in Los Angeles, and has been improved using data from Santa Clara County – Silicon Valley. It’s the most accurate screening tool that has been developed. It is very effective for screening and prioritizing homeless individuals based on the likelihood that they will have ongoing high costs.

Los Angeles County has the capability to link records across departments for the homeless residents it serves. This made it possible to use the triage tool to screen every identifiable homeless resident and prioritize them for access to housing.