In the battle against rising homelessness in Los Angeles, a pioneering program is using AI to predict and prevent homelessness before it occurs. This proactive initiative aims to assist individuals and families most at risk of losing their homes. By using AI to identify those in need, the program offers a lifeline to individuals facing housing insecurity, potentially curbing the city’s persistent homelessness crisis.
Dulce Volantin and Valarie Zayas, a couple who had experienced homelessness, initially had reservations when they received an unexpected phone call offering financial help. However, their skepticism turned to hope as they discovered that this call was part of a unique program designed to prevent homelessness in Los Angeles.
The program, initiated by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, employs artificial intelligence to predict individuals and families at the highest risk of becoming homeless. It collects data from various county agencies, including emergency room visits, mental health crisis care, substance abuse diagnoses, arrests, and public benefits sign-ups. Machine learning processes this data to generate a list of people most vulnerable to homelessness, often those who haven’t sought help through existing programs due to mistrust of systems or generational trauma.
Case managers, numbering 16, are then assigned to reach out to individuals on the high-risk lists, sending letters and making phone calls. However, connecting with these individuals can be challenging, as many experience unstable living situations and frequently change addresses and phone numbers. Some may be facing eviction or dealing with domestic violence.
The program offers a case manager to work with individuals for four to six months, allocating $4,000 to $6,000 in aid for various expenses like rent, utilities, groceries, or other necessities. It aims to prevent a crisis from pushing them into homelessness.
While rent assistance is a common need, case managers also address other pressing issues such as payday loan debt, appliance purchases, or even providing e-bikes for better mobility.
Ricky Brown, a client in the prevention program, had been struggling to make ends meet after taking in his three grandsons following his ex-wife’s sudden passing. The case manager helps him navigate challenges, including finding suitable housing for the boys and accessing food aid and cash assistance. However, securing federal housing vouchers remains a challenge due to limited availability and long wait times.
The success of Los Angeles’ prevention program is currently under study, with data suggesting that a majority of participants have maintained stable housing. Long-term results will determine if this proactive approach can effectively reduce homelessness in the city. Experts emphasize the importance of targeting those at the highest risk of losing their homes and hope that evidence from this program can inform future homelessness prevention efforts.
For Dulce Volantin and Valarie Zayas, this program has been life-changing, providing them with stable housing and the opportunity for better employment. They recognize the critical role such initiatives play in preventing individuals and families from experiencing homelessness, knowing that a single misstep could have placed them in the same situation as those still struggling on the streets.
In the ongoing battle against homelessness in Los Angeles, this AI-powered program represents a promising step toward preventing crises before they lead to housing instability.