Homeless Attributes and Service Needs
Economic Roundtable Research Proposal
When individuals experience homelessness, they fall off the data grid because most information collected by public agencies, for example the Census Bureau, is based on place of residence. However, it is possible to use records of services provided by public agencies to connect the dots and provide a complete picture of people experiencing homelessness. Each encounter of a homeless person with a public agency is like the tip of a rolling iceberg, offering a small glimpse of that individual. But linked records enable us to profile the complete person and see changes over time.
Our impression of people experiencing homelessness is often shaped by the people we see day after day on sidewalks. However these chronically homeless individuals represent the outcome of repeated failures to provide lasting help before they became acutely isolated with a growing accumulation of medical, legal and social wreckage in their lives. A much larger population, including many women and children, experiences shorter episodes of homelessness. For some individuals these episodes reoccur and grow longer, resulting in chronic homelessness.
In order to reduce the size of the homeless population it is necessary to reduce the number of people who fall into homelessness as well as the number who have protracted and repeated episodes of homelessness. Information from this research will provide tools for addressing both of these needs.
A decade of linked records for public assistance, foster care, health and mental health care, justice system involvement, substance abuse services, and employment will provide a powerful tool for understanding the geography of homelessness, population dynamics as people move in and out of homelessness, factors affecting the occurrence and duration of homelessness, and service needs ranging from immediate reemployment to permanent supportive housing of subgroups within the population experiencing homelessness.
This research will help fill identified gaps in knowledge and build on the Economic Roundtable’s strengths in homeless research.
Records to be Studied
This research will use a comprehensive dataset provided by the County of Los Angeles with records linked across county departments for 990,000 people who experienced homelessness, raw data from each homeless count from 2007 to 2016 provided by the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, records of homeless hospital patients provided by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, and data on homeless students from the California Department of Education to produce actionable information for matching the right services with the right person.
Los Angeles County voters approved Measure H to prevent and combat homelessness. Revenue from a ¼ cent sales tax will be available for ten years to fund a broad range of services. However there are crucial gaps in our knowledge about the composition of the population that experiences homelessness, particularly families, youth and those with short stints of homelessness, as well as gaps in our understanding of the service needs of this population. This research will provide reliable, actionable information for using available public and private resources to more effectively help individuals exit homelessness.
In order to reduce the size of the homeless population it is necessary to reduce the number of people who fall into homelessness as well as the number who have protracted and repeated episodes of homelessness. There are solutions to each individual’s problems, but no mass solutions. This research will fill gaps in our knowledge about how to respond most effectively to different groups that experience homelessness by providing:
- A profile of the population dynamics of movement of different groups of single adults and families into and out of homelessness.
- An analysis of factors affecting the occurrence, duration and reoccurrence of homelessness among individuals and families.
- An analysis of factors affecting the occurrence and duration of homelessness.
- Attributes and service needs of subpopulations of homeless individuals.
- Geographic information identifying where investments in different types of services and housing are needed.