Antecedents of Chronic Homelessness
Mapping the Childhood and Family Antecedents of Chronic Homelessness
The number of Los Angeles residents experiencing chronic homelessness continues to grow even after housing over 10,000 individuals in the past three years. This tells us that the flow of individuals into chronic homelessness is unabated – the pathways have not been closed. Multiple failures create these paths into homelessness and chronic homelessness – families, schools, social services, health and mental health care, the criminal justice system, lack of affordable housing, and a stagnant labor market.
Public assistance programs are Los Angeles’ primary interface with individuals experiencing homelessness, touching most of this population on a continuing basis. All of the combined human service resources of health, mental health, justice system, housing, social service, and educational agencies are required to close paths into homelessness and restore a place in the community for individuals who have experienced homelessness.
Public assistance programs can be a catalyst for connecting at-risk and homeless recipients with crucial services and reducing massive public costs for chronic homelessness. The crucial role is to identify tripwire events among all recipients, particularly children and transition age youth, and to quickly connect at-risk individuals with needed behavioral health and housing services provided by other organizations.
- Over 13,000 public assistance recipients were newly identified as homeless each month from 2002 through 2010. A quarter of these individuals entering homelessness, 3,700 in the average month, chronically homeless as a result of experiencing four or more stints of homelessness within three years.
- Over 100,000 children did not have a home in the average month each month.
- Half of all homeless public assistance recipients are children.
- African Americans make up a share of homeless public assistance recipients that is almost six times as great as their share of the overall county population. Thirty-seven percent of African American recipients are identified as homeless each month.
- Fewer than one in ten children with disabilities are identified. More complete recognition of vulnerabilities among children who are at risk of homelessness as they enter adulthood would make it more feasible to reduce the feeder pipeline from childhood poverty and homeless episodes into adult homelessness and chronic homelessness.
- The long lasting and destabilizing effects of homelessness create elevated risks of homelessness for children as they transition into adulthood.
- Experiences of homelessness while transitioning from childhood to adulthood are associated with reduced employment rates and highly elevated rates of disabilities for both women and men.
- Trip wire events for flagging risks and occurrences of homelessness should include:
1. Homelessness, with particular attention to prolonged or repeated episodes of homelessness
2. Homeless children
3. Domestic violence
4. Children who are not attending school regularly
5. Long-term unemployed adults
Recommendation: Public assistance programs should quickly open the door to integrated public and private heath, mental health, housing, and case management services for individuals and families that experience any of the tripwire events that indicate risk of recurring or prolonged homelessness.
Breaking Down Silos
All of the combined human service resources of health, mental health, justice system, housing, social service, and educational agencies are required to close paths into homelessness and restore a place in the community for individuals who have experienced homelessness. Public assistance programs can be a catalyst for connecting at-risk and homeless recipients with crucial services and reducing massive public costs for chronic homelessness. This requires growing beyond the role of siloed eligibility determination programs to expeditiously and reliably providing crucial linkage services.
Recommendation: When any of the tripwire events occur:
1. Immediately reassessing cases
2. Immediately notifying appropriate service about the trip wire event and assessment results.
3. Facilitating access and rapid face-to-face engagement of clients needing services with appropriate service providers.
4. Co-locating mental health services in public assistance offices to facilitate connection of clients with needed services.
Timely Services for At-Risk Individuals
Mental health, substance abuse and other needed behavioral health services should be made accessible to all individuals who need these services. Among CalWORKs clients, the primary group with access to these services is welfare-to-work participants, and among General Relief clients, the primary groups with access are recipients who are employed or SSI-eligible. Access to services that can prevent, stabilize or reverse disabilities and prevent movement into chronic homelessness should be readily available to all public assistance recipients. Access to services is especially important for children and transition age youth.
Recommendation: Facilitate access to the following services children, adults and families that experience any of the tripwire events:
1. Home visits by a public health nurse for any family with children
2. Mental health services
3. Substance abuse rehabilitation services