Public assistance programs are Los Angeles’s primary interface with individuals experiencing homelessness and can be a catalyst for connecting at-risk and homeless recipients with crucial services and reducing the massive public costs associated with chronic homelessness. The vital role is to identify tripwire events among all recipients, particularly children and transition-age youth, and quickly connect at-risk individuals with needed employment, behavioral health and housing services.
Counties bear large hidden costs for individuals with disabilities who are indigent or homeless. This includes costs for health care, jails and probation in addition to readily identifiable county costs for public assistance. A large share of this cost is health related – costs that the federal and state governments would pay through Medi-Cal if the individuals were receiving Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI).
The central question investigated in this study is the public costs for people in supportive housing compared to similar people that are homeless. The typical public cost for residents in supportive housing is $605 a month. The typical public cost for similar homeless persons is $2,897, five-times greater than their counterparts that are housed. This remarkable finding demonstrates that practical, tangible public benefits result from providing supportive housing for vulnerable homeless individuals. The stabilizing effect of housing plus supportive care is demonstrated by a 79 percent reduction in public costs for these residents.