Where We Sleep: Costs When Homeless and Housed in Los Angeles

Daniel Flaming, Patrick Burns, Michael Matsunaga, Gerald Sumner, Manuel H. Moreno, Halil Toros, and Duc Doan


The purpose of this study was to identify public costs for different types of homeless individuals when they are housed and when they are not housed, the extent to which any cost savings when housed are sufficient to pay the cost of housing, and the public agencies that bear these costs.  The study tracked 10,193 homeless individuals in Los Angeles County, 9,186 who experienced homelessness while receiving General Relief public assistance and 1,007 who exited homeless by entering supportive housing.  Two different methods were used to independently verify changes in public costs when individuals are housed compared to months when they are homeless. The typical public cost for residents in supportive housing was $605 a month. The typical public cost for similar homeless persons was $2,897, five-times greater than their counterparts that are housed.  The stabilizing effect of housing plus supportive care is demonstrated by a 79 percent reduction in public costs for these residents.  The biggest cost savings of housing come from a reduction in the use of expensive crisis and inpatient health care services.  The researcher also notes that the cost of homelessness increases for individuals that are older, have HIV/AIDS, co-occurring disorders, and/or no recent employment history.

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