Finally, Some Rare Good News for L.A.’s Homeless Population

A relatively recent initiative is meeting with some success and saving money

Los Angeles County has the highest rate of unsheltered homelessness in the United States, but a relatively recent program is trying to find homes for the people who need them most. Housing for Health, launched by the L.A. County Department of Health Services in 2012, helps homeless people with complex health issues find permanent housing and medical services. A new evaluation by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research institute, finds that the program is not only working—it’s saving the county money.

The RAND study found a significant drop in the frequency with which Housing for Health participants used public services, such as emergency medical care. For every $1 invested in Housing for Health, the L.A. County government saved $1.20 in health care and social service costs.

“These savings are substantially higher than what has been seen in other cities and suggest that Los Angeles County officials have succeeded in implementing this model,” said Sarah Hunter, lead author of the study. “Oftentimes, these programs strive to ‘break even’ in terms of costs and only exhibit cost savings among the most vulnerable, while the Los Angeles program shows considerable savings across a diverse population.”

The new evaluation was based on the experiences of 890 people in the Housing for Health program. It also found benefits on an individual level, with participants self-reporting improved mental health. RAND recommends further research to determine if the cost savings change as more people enroll.

RELATED: This Project Makes the Dream of Owning a Home a Reality

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