- Receiving emergency financial assistance (EFA) reduces shelter entry.
- EFA reduces homelessness.
- EFA had less impact after the onset of COVID-19, likely due to federal and local homelessness initiatives.
Destination: Home is a non-profit organization that operates Santa Clara County’s Continuum of Care. Their homelessness prevention program, which began in 2017, is operated by a network of non-profit organizations that cover the geography of the county. The program provides one-time emergency financial assistance to clients who face imminent risk of losing their housing. The program also provides non-financial assistance to families who would become homeless without receiving such support. These services may include legal help, case management, and other services like financial counseling and landlord dispute resolution.
When a client seeks help from Destination: Home, they meet with a case worker who helps determine if they are eligible for the program. After confirming their imminent risk of homelessness, clients complete an eligibility screen called the Prevention/Re-Housing Vulnerability Index - Service Provision Decision Assistance Tool (PR-VI-SPDAT). This tool includes questions about the client’s family structure, housing history, and financial situation. Households who are at higher risk according to the PR-VI-SPDAT are automatically eligible for EFA, and those who are at lowest risk are not considered for EFA.
LEO and Destination: Home partnered to study, through a randomized control trial (RCT), the impact of providing EFA to families whose PR-VI-SPDAT scores were at moderate risk of becoming homeless and ineligible for other prevention programs. Of those seeking Destination: Home’s services who were eligible for the study and agreed to take part, one group was offered the full suite of Destination: Home’s services, including EFA, and the others received standard case management services. The study used data on individuals from Santa Clara County’s Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) and data on addresses from Infutor Data Solutions.
What we learned
Emergency financial assistance keeps people from entering homeless shelters and utilizing other homelessness services in the short and long term.
EFA recipients were three times less likely to become homelessness than those who did not receive EFA over a 12 month period, indicating that the positive impact of receiving EFA persists over time, rather than being a temporary band-aid on a larger issue.
The benefits (both fiscal and social) of providing EFA to these individuals greatly outweigh the projected costs associated with those individuals or families becoming homeless. When someone becomes homeless, they are more likely to become involved in criminal justice and to have frequent hospital visits. These are just two of the societal downsides resulting from homelessness. When taking into account these downsides, and others, the conservative estimate of cost/benefit comes to: for every $1 spent on EFA, benefits of $2.47 are realized.
Where are we going?
Other counties and cities across the country are using this intervention to inform their homelessness prevention services.
LEO and Destination: Home are working closely to share the impact of this research with as many stakeholders as possible, with the goal of informing effective homelessness prevention for the population studied, resulting in people remaining housed, with higher quality of lives.
LEO is continuing researching homelessness prevention services and other issues like developing a new tool to replace VI-SPDAT due to identified shortcomings and racial biases.
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