Poverty Lab Addressing Homelessness

Homelessness can have far reaching consequences for adults and children alike. The negative effects of unstable housing cut across myriad dimensions of daily life and are associated with behavioral and emotional problems, moderate to severe chronic health problems, lack of access to medical and dental care, and lower scores on standardized tests. As such, homelessness poses significant barriers to social mobility.

The cross-cutting effects of homelessness point to the need for a comprehensive set of programming and policy solutions. The Poverty Lab is collaborating with a range of partners to highlight the role housing supports can play in addressing these other socio-economic challenges. The Poverty Lab’s diverse portfolio of programs aims to increase the use of evidence-based interventions around housing instability, to better coordinate efforts across a fragmented system of programs and resources, and to promote proactive innovation across agencies whose work affects or is affected by housing instability.

Ending Family Homelessness in Chicago

According to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) data, at least 22,000 students self-reported living in a temporary situation during the 2013-14 academic year. These students and their families face greater risk for violence victimization, poor sleep, food insecurity, and decreased academic performance. To address the growing needs of this population, advocates are launching a citywide initiative to eliminate family homelessness in the city, but policymakers know very little about this population because the data on homeless families is fragmented across many agencies. The Poverty Lab and Health Lab are building an infrastructure that links data from homeless service providers and CPS administrative student records. This will build a lasting connection between the housing and education sectors in Chicago, provide accurate counts of students and families experiencing homelessness in Chicago, and generate data that can be used to understand the effectiveness of efforts to support families experiencing homelessness.

Using Predictive Analytics to Prevent Homelessness in Los Angeles 

Los Angeles County has the largest concentration of individuals experiencing homelessness anywhere in the nation, with more than 47,000 people already living on the street or in shelters. Just as important, Los Angeles is facing conditions that put tens of thousands more individuals at risk of homelessness, with housing needs that far exceed the available supply for low-income households. The number of homeless individuals in Los Angeles County increased 12.4% between 2013 and 2015, and the County is spending nearly $1 billion annually to provide services, benefits, and care to the growing homeless population. Rigorous research has shown that targeted emergency financial assistance and timely intervention can be effective at stabilizing individuals and preventing homelessness. The Poverty Lab is partnering with the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office and the California Policy Lab (CPL) to use advances in computational technology and analytic techniques to identify individuals at risk of homelessness and better target prevention efforts.

Housing Supports for CPS Families

Over 20,000 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students were homeless or experiencing housing instability in the 2013-14 school year. Childhood homelessness is associated with a host of adverse outcomes later in life, including low educational attainment, depression, anxiety, and poor physical health. Without this foundational stability, it is difficult to imagine any child thriving in school and achieving their full potential. To address the challenges created by unstable housing, the City of Chicago recently launched a new program called Housing Supports for CPS Families in Transition (FIT), which will provide housing to an initial cohort of 100 families in six CPS schools. The Poverty Lab is partnering with CPS, the Corporation for Supportive Housing and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to understand whether creating housing stability has a measurable impact on student achievement. This research will help the City of Chicago to target resources to the types of students that will benefit most, and to make the case locally and nationally for a systemic solution to student homelessness.