LA Tests $1K Monthly Payment to Prevent Homelessness

Early data suggests pilot program using artificial intelligence to identify those at risk is working
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2023 7:00 PM CDT
LA Tests $1K Monthly Payment to Prevent Homelessness
A homeless man sits at his street side tent along the Interstate 110 freeway along downtown Los Angeles' skyline, on Thursday, May 10, 2018.   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel,File)

While some fear artificial intelligence will steal their likeness, work, and jobs, Los Angeles hopes the technology will prevent 20 net people from falling into homelessness each day. "On average, for every 207 individuals who exit homelessness daily, 227 more enter," reads a report cited by KTLA. To prevent that climb, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services is experimenting with a "first-of-its-kind" program that uses machine learning to identify those thought to be most at-risk, based on arrests, emergency room visits, diagnoses of substance abuse disorders, crisis care for mental health, requests for public aid, and more, per NPR. Case managers then reach out to those individuals, offering $1,000 per month for four to six months to help them gain stability.

"The county never reaches half the people on its lists," NPR reports. In unstable living situations, numbers and addresses are prone to change. Some of those reached "have understandable mistrust of systems" and refuse help, says Dana Vanderford of the department's Homelessness Prevention unit. But the pilot program has helped 560 people over the last two years and "a large majority have stayed housed so far," per NPR. One participant, a retired handyman who took in his three grandsons, whose parents are addicted to drugs, says the program has been a blessing and his case manager a "life-saver," per the outlet. The money, directed through third-party vendors, can be used to cover rent, utilities, debt bills, groceries, and other expenses. Participants do not need to pay it back.

The program has a $31 million budget, which largely stems from pandemic aid, but it's due to run out in 2026. Around that time, UCLA's California Policy Lab, which developed the AI prediction tool, plans to release a long-term study analyzing the program's success. It will explore whether AI is really identifying those most at-risk for homelessness and compare participants with people of similar instability who do not receive assistance. With the right results, the program could be expanded and serve as a model for other areas. According to NPR, "San Diego County has already voted to create its own similar program using predictive analytics." For every 10 individuals who escape homelessness in San Diego, another 13 become homeless for the first time, per StateScoop. (More homelessness stories.)

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