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Silicon Valley Triage Tool

February 17, 2016 / By Patrick Burns

Predict costs and set priorities for supportive housing by identifying people who it costs less to house than to leave homelessness

LOS ANGELES, Calif.  – February 17, 2016 – Today the Economic Roundtable releases a new report, Silicon Valley Triage Tool.  The tool uses demographic, medical and jail information to accurately identify acutely distressed homeless individuals who are most likely to have ongoing high public costs.

The number of homeless people needing housing far exceeds the available supply, and there is not a fair, objective system for prioritizing who gets to be housed based on the available housing supply. The triage tool solves this problem by producing a probability from 0 to 100 that an individual will have continuing high public costs. Using these scores, individuals can be ranked based on predicted future costs.

The new tool is a more robust version of the screening tool pioneered by more than 25 organizations in Los Angeles’ 10th Decile Project, where it is used to identify the top 10% highest-cost, highest-need homeless individuals in hospitals and provide immediate housing and intensive case management.

The new Silicon Valley Triage Tool is the most accurate screening tool that has been developed. Results from testing it in both Santa Clara and Los Angeles counties verify that the tool has strong predictive performance in multiple regions.

Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties have already linked records across departments for the homeless residents they serve. This made it possible to develop both the Los Angeles and the new Silicon Valley triage tools. Both counties are now able to use triage tools to screen every identifiable homeless resident and prioritize them for access to housing.

The Silicon Valley Triage Tool is a predictive analytic statistical algorithm that uses 38 pieces of information to calculate the probability that a homeless individual will have ongoing high costs. The information includes age, gender, emergency psychiatric visits, hospital inpatient days, emergency room visits, periods of incarceration and medical diagnoses.

The Economic Roundtable statistician who led development of the new tool, Halil Toros, said, “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.’ Some individuals are likely to remain homeless and use public services extensively, while many others have short stints and use fewer services. “

The tool can screen a large database of people experiencing homelessness and rank them by their probability of being high-cost users of public services. This is a very effective way of matching people with the highest costs with the available supply of housing. For example, if 1,000 housing units are available, the 1,000 homeless individuals with the highest probability of having ongoing high costs can be placed in those units. Even after paying for housing, long-term costs for these individuals will be $20,000 a year less than if they were homeless.

Forecasting the future costs of homeless residents means critical, lifesaving interventions can be provided to the most vulnerable in our community. Using the triage tool means communities can spend less resources while achieving better outcomes.  Further, the triage tool is in the public domain, meaning it is available to any jurisdiction interested in using this predictive modeling to address homelessness in their community.

Dan Flaming, President of the Economic Roundtable, the research organization that developed the tool, said, “This tool has implications beyond Santa Clara County.  We are excited to share this tool with counties across America that are interested in using more accurate and objective tools to target scarce housing and service resources to make the greatest possible headway in ending homelessness in their communities.”

Permanently affordable housing with supportive services provides stability for individuals with ongoing crises in their lives who would otherwise have high public costs. As a result, housed individuals are in the hospital or jail much less frequently. Targeting high-cost users has the added benefit of serving the most distressed and vulnerable members of the community. The triage tool allows government agencies to be more efficient with their public dollars, while also helping those in the direst situations.

Development of the tool was underwritten by Santa Clara County and Destination Home. Supervisor Wasserman from Santa Clara County said “This is a great example of us doing the right thing for the right reasons.  Housing people who are suffering the most means everyone wins.”

For nine years, Destination: Home has worked to end homelessness in Santa Clara County. Jennifer Loving, Executive Director of Destination: Home, said, “I applaud the work of Santa Clara County in not only identifying the true costs of homelessness, but then immediately putting that learning into action by housing the most vulnerable.”



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About Economic Roundtable

The Economic Roundtable is a nonprofit urban research organization, based in Los Angeles that carries out large-scale data analyses to identify actionable solutions to social, economic and environmental problems. They synthesize complex information into clear and objective analyses that are widely credible to a broad cross section of public officials and community stakeholders, and operationally relevant for public agencies.  All of the Roundtable’s work is linked to strengthening the sustainability of communities. Their website is

About Destination: Home

Destination: Home, a program of The Health Trust, is a public-private partnership implementing strategies to end homelessness in Santa Clara County. Destination: Home drives and aligns resources to create long-term permanent housing and sustainable support systems. Destination: Home’s Board also serves as the HUD Continuum of Care Board for the San Jose /Santa Clara City and County Metropolitan area and works with the Santa Clara County Office of Supportive Housing as a Collaborative Applicant to expand local allocations of federal funding. Their website is

About the County of Santa Clara

The County of Santa Clara provides more than a quarter of all jobs in the Bay Area. Its population constitutes about one fourth of the Bay Area’s total population and it is the largest of the nine Bay Area counties. The County has one of the highest standards of living and median incomes in the country, with a wide diversity of cultures, backgrounds and talents. Over 100 languages and dialects are spoken among the County’s 1.8 million residents.  It is home to 15 cities ranging from Palo Alto in the north, to Gilroy in the south. San Jose is the largest city in the County, with a population of nearly one million, and is the administrative site of County Government. Their website is