The county approves a program to identify those who may become homeless

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County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan that would use data to identify people at risk of homelessness to keep them in homes and off the streets.

“We really need to do everything we can to try to intervene early,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher, who proposed the initiative, which is modeled after a similar one in Los Angeles that has been said to be successful.

Fletcher and other leaders said the new initiative will address the wave of new homeless people, who are working hard to rehouse people who are already homeless. Controllers cited a new report from the regional task force on homelessness, which found that an average of 13 people become homeless for every 10 homeless people housed.

Supervisor Joel Anderson said preventing homelessness is more effective and cost-effective than trying to help people once they’re on the streets, and Supervisor Tera Lawson-Remmer said she likes that the approach is data-driven and follows best practices.

Fletcher said the initiative involves integrating a data system with several county departments, creating a data-driven risk assessment and launching a new homeless prevention unit to reach at-risk people.

The initiative could also include a new app that about 60 county employees will use to connect with people like librarians and park rangers who can identify who is at risk.

As an example of who might be flagged, Fletcher said the integrated data could find someone who owes money to the county, could be facing arrest or possibly getting out of jail.

Other indicators may include government food assistance, general assistance payments, mental health services, or contact with four or more government agencies, according to report for 2019 from UCLA’s California Policy Lab.

“These data alone may not be predictive, but collectively they may provide an opportunity for intervention,” he said.

Several people who called the meeting opposed the program and expressed concerns about privacy, and one person suggested that one day everyone in the county would be on some kind of list.

John Brady of Live Experience Advisors said the initiative would also be a way to quantify the number of people at risk and the resources needed to help them.

“Why should we allow anyone to be homeless when they don’t have to and we can support their needs?” he said.

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