USC partners with homelessness organization

USC recently partnered with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to survey the homeless demographic of Los Angeles. The homeless census will be used to inform future policy decisions.

This is the first time that USC social workers have worked in conjunction with LAHSA, the lead agency in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, which manages over $132 million annually in federal, state, county and city funds.

LAHSA provides assistance to more than 100 non-profit agencies that help homeless people achieve independence and stability in permanent housing through funding, program design, outcomes assessment and technical assistance.

According to their website, LAHSA’s partner agencies “provide a continuum of programs ranging from outreach, access centers, emergency shelters, safe havens, transitional and permanent housing and prevention, along with the necessary supportive services designed to provide the tools and skills required to attain a stable housing environment.”

Though it is standard practice for LAHSA to distribute responsibilities among multiple organizations, USC will be in charge of the methodology, survey and statistical analysis for this project. About 30 USC-affiliated surveyors, including graduates as well as doctoral and Master’s of Social Work students, went out into the field to interact with homeless individuals.

The surveyors asked homeless citizens questions regarding their health, disabilities, domestic violence and the amount of time they have been homeless. The USC researchers also ensured that demographics that were harder to find, such as those for youth, families and women, were accounted for as well.

The study found that more than half of the homeless people surveyed preferred to live on the street than in temporary housing and shelters, since they are often crowded and dirty. There was also a consensus among the population that the government funding should be allocated toward permanent housing.

Though homeless people hope to reside in a permanent home, it could often take a couple years for someone to make it on a waiting list. Also, many cannot afford to take such a long-term perspective, the researchers said.