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Individuality within Homelessness

September 1, 2018 / By Daniel Flaming

There is a solution to every individual’s problems but there are no mass solutions.

A large population experiences homelessness over the course of a year, but roughly two-thirds of these individuals escape homelessness in less than a year. Differing durations of homelessness point to differing types and difficulty of barriers to becoming stably housed.

In addition to housing chronically homeless individuals, the most promising strategy for combating homelessness is to have tools for differentiating level of need among newly homeless individuals and to intervene early with intensive help for individuals who are likely to become persistently homeless.

Early intervention for high-risk individuals is particularly important because when people remain homeless, social disconnection and legal, medical and behavioral health problems emerge and grow as increasingly formidable barriers to escaping homelessness.

We’ve developed three new tools for understanding homelessness as a dynamic problem with people entering and exiting, stints of differing durations, and differing levels of barriers to becoming stably housed.

The first tool is a homeless population model for using point-in-time data from homeless counts to estimate the size of the annual homeless population and breakout the population by duration of homelessness.

The second tool is a data manipulation and visualization portal for exploring the size and attributes of different population groups enumerated and surveyed in the 2016 and 2017 homeless counts.

The third tool is an online data library with 57 files from Los Angeles County homeless street counts, demographic surveys of unsheltered individuals, and intake data for shelter residents, along with supporting documentation. These open source, de-identified person records by are a resource for homeless research.

Our purpose in doing this work is to build awareness that homelessness is a dynamic problem and to build support for using screening tools to identify and help high-risk individuals soon after they become homeless.

The next research project we’re hoping to launch is to develop new typologies of homelessness to guide early, needs-based interventions.