Abt Associates’ Evaluation of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Chronic Homelessness Initiative
In order to reduce inflow into chronic homelessness, a better understanding is needed of the factors that contribute to it. In 2018, the Homelessness Policy Research Institute (HPRI), a research collaborative supported with Foundation funding that sits within the University of Southern California’s Sol Price Center for Social Innovation, continued efforts to coordinate research on inflow into chronic homelessness.
The California Policy Lab at the University of Los Angeles (UCLA), an HPRI partner, began worked on understanding what drives inflow into homelessness and what is needed to prevent additional inflow. In May 2018, the California Policy Lab hosted “See. Study. Solve,” a week-long series of seminars, roundtable discussions, and lectures. The goal of the event was to develop a research agenda that can support the City’s and County’s efforts to reduce homelessness. The California Policy Lab also continued its research using the County’s administrative data to understand inflow into homelessness by developing and refining predictive analytic models. These models are intended to help predict first-time homelessness and homelessness among high-cost system users. In late 2018, a Data Use Agreement was finalized between the University of Chicago Urban Labs, UCLA’s California Policy Lab, and the County’s Chief Information Officer to share data for the predictive analytic models. Initial findings from the predictive analytic models were shared with the Homeless Initiative in early 2019.
Researchers and community stakeholders continue to embark on efforts to understand inflow into homelessness and chronic homelessness and factors that drive it. While that economic factors drive increases in homelessness, other factors are important for understanding what community leaders, policymakers, and practitioners can do to prevent homelessness and chronic homelessness.
During 2018, the community engaged in numerous new efforts to provide resources to individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness and to prevent people from entering homelessness. Under Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s direction, the City began to implement a program, A Bridge Home, to expand the supply of bridge housing. This action was made possible by the City’s declaration of an emergency shelter crisis in April 2018, which allows the City to construct bridge housing more rapidly on City-owned property under authority of State law. In May, Mayor Garcetti issued an Executive Directive requiring City departments to “fast-track bridge housing projects from application to construction, allowing for those that meet legal and environmental standards to open their doors in as little as 32 weeks.”69 70 The purpose of bridge housing is to help connect people experiencing unsheltered homelessness to housing and support services while additional supportive housing, such as permanent supportive housing (PSH), is developed. Bridge housing will be developed throughout all 15 Council Districts in locations with large homeless encampments. Once built, the bridge housing facilities will prioritize serving residents from local encampments. City sanitation and enforcement teams will then be deployed to clean up the former encampment areas. The first A Bridge Home site, El Pueblo, opened in September 2018 and serves 45 people.71 Construction costs were more than double the amount originally allocated by the City.
Efforts to connect people experiencing unsheltered homelessness to housing and services through the community’s coordinated entry system (CES) continued. The countywide Homeless Outreach Portal (LA-HOP), operated by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), launched in 2018. LA-HOP is an online portal that allows the general public, service providers, and first responders to make requests for outreach services for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Once a request is submitted in LA-HOP, Service Planning Area (SPA) CES outreach coordinators process the request and deploy an appropriate team: a generalist outreach team, a multidisciplinary outreach team, or a specialty outreach team. Because LA-HOP allows those submitting a request to geographically tag the person in need of assistance, CES outreach coordinators can dispatch the closest outreach team, helping to reduce response times.72 Between July, when LA-HOP launched, and the end of December, more than 5,300 outreach requests had been submitted.73
In August 2018, LA County’s Board of Supervisors directed the Homeless Initiative to develop recommendations for how to expand safe parking programs throughout the County. Safe parking programs provide a safe place for people living in their cars to park overnight. Each safe parking program provides outreach services and tries to connect the individual or family living in a car to housing and support services. Though a number of safe parking programs already exist, the Board called for an expansion of the programs and investigation into available funding that could be used to support the expansion. Currently, safe parking programs can operate on County-owned land in cities that have passed safe parking ordinances and on public or private land in unincorporated areas within the County. LAHSA has committed $500,000 in state Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) funding to safe parking programs, and the County is considering allocating additional funding through the Measure H funding for fiscal year 2019-2020.74 There are now 13 Safe Parking sites across the County.
LAHSA developed and implemented two new retention pilots for rapid re-housing (RRH) clients. In mid-2018, LAHSA launched the Shallow Subsidy Pilot, to provide households who are unable to afford rent upon exiting RRH with further financial support to subsidize the cost of rent. The goal of the program is to help formerly homeless residents remain stably housed after they exit RRH. Additionally, in October 2018, LAHSA and Los Angeles County Department Of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services launched the “Home 2 Work” Pilot, to connect households receiving RRH with employment services at America’s Job Centers of California.
The County continued in 2018 to implement Strategy A5, “Homeless Prevention Program for Individuals,” which uses Measure H funding to support prevention efforts focused on diversion and retention services to help formerly homeless individuals remain stably housed and targets support for those at imminent risk of homelessness because of eviction. The Inner City Law Center worked with LAHSA to host legal trainings for prevention and diversion service providers. During the first half of fiscal year 2018-2019, prevention services were provided to 631 new individuals. More than half, 354 people, completed the prevention program, and 92 percent of those completing the program retained avoided eviction or transitioned to other permanent housing.
Public health concerns related to the large unsheltered population across the Los Angeles region continued into 2018. In early 2018, the County piloted a mobile shower program in two locations, in collaboration with Lava Mae and Shower of Hope. In fall 2018, a flea-borne typhus outbreak struck downtown and South Los Angeles. Typhus is known to spread in areas that have an accumulation of trash that may attract wild animals that can carry an infected flea. In response to the outbreak, City officials dedicated an additional $300,000 for street cleanups and brought additional mobile showers, laundry stations, and restrooms to encampments. While elected officials and public agencies are investing resources to respond to these growing crises, the circumstances for the unsheltered populations continue to grow more dire from year to year.
Outreach efforts across the County were scaled up in 2018 to include both more teams on the ground and weekday and weekend coverage. LAHSA’s Homeless Engagement Teams (HET), which have roughly 200 staff members, provide direct outreach to people experiencing homelessness across the County and link them to housing and supportive services. Specialized outreach teams include 36 County Department of Health Services (DHS) multidisciplinary outreach teams and eight Department of Mental Health (DMH) SB-82/Homeless Service outreach teams. DMH also administers Homeless Outreach Mobile Engagement (HOME) teams and is in the process of integrating SB-82/Homeless Service teams and the HOME teams in each SPA. These teams bring specialized health, mental health, and substance abuse support to people experiencing unsheltered homelessness across the County. The County’s Health Agency also supports 20 Public Space generalist outreach teams.
To ensure that new outreach workers have a shared understanding of how to conduct outreach and to more easily coordinate efforts across teams, LAHSA and the Los Angeles County Health Agency develop a collaborative training to be completed by all newly hired outreach staff. Assembly Bill 210, which allows multidisciplinary outreach team workers to share data about the people they engage to facilitate coordination of services and provide more efficient continuity of care, went into effect in 2018.75 This bill provides community outreach teams and the homeless service system overall the opportunity to access data and work toward greater coordination.
The County DHS’s Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR) continued to operate the Just In Reach program, the County’s first Pay For Success initiative. The Just In Reach program works with homeless individuals with a mental health diagnosis, substance use disorder, or physical disability who are currently incarcerated at an LA County jail to ensure they receive a coordinated discharge from jail into PSH. This coordination is intended to reduce the number of individuals who reenter homelessness after being released from jail. It is expected that about 300 individuals will be placed into PSH through the Just In Reach program. At the end of 2018, 208 individuals exited Los Angeles County jails with severe mental illness and other co-occurring conditions and were placed in PSH units as part of Just in Reach. According to the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), 107 individuals met the six-month housing stability metric, and 27 individuals met the 12-month housing stability metric. The program will enroll individuals through October 2019.
Since 2016, ODR has served over 1,700 individuals who are homeless and have a serious mental health condition by connecting them with interim housing, PSH, and supportive services upon release from an LA County jail. In 2018, the State awarded a $45 million grant to the Felony Incompetent to Stand Trial (FIST) program, which diverts individuals facing felony charges who are incompetent to stand trial from incarceration in County jails to interim housing. With these funds, the program expects to create 150 interim housing beds with the goal of connecting individuals to PSH.
The Department of State Hospitals awarded ODR $25 million to implement a mental health diversion program. This program targets individuals who are competent to stand trial but who have serious mental illness and are facing charges related to that illness. Through the program, individuals can have their charges held for two years while they receive mental health treatment. If after two years they have remained compliant with their treatment, charges can be dismissed and cleared from their record.