Los Angeles Harnesses AI to Forecast Future Homelessness and Extend Support

Los Angeles, a large city where homelessness has become a significant crisis, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to address the issue. 

The initiative aims to predict people at risk of becoming homeless and provide support before they end up on the streets. This innovative approach is making a real impact.

Both familiar with adversity, Dulce Volantin and Valarie Zayas found themselves in a precarious living situation, renting a bed in a Venice Beach dormitory-style accommodation. 

Their journey, marked by past involvement with gangs and mental health challenges, had brought them together in love and resilience. 

Valarie worked temporary jobs to complement Dulce’s disability aid. Still, their life took a turn for the worse as they lost their car and relied on the generosity of family members. 

Each day, their resources dwindled, leaving them with limited options.

Then came a phone call that initially raised doubts but ultimately transformed their lives. 

The call was from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, part of an ambitious experiment to combat the escalating homelessness crisis. 

Despite substantial financial investments in addressing homelessness, the problem persisted, with 227 people falling into homelessness daily for every 207 who managed to escape it.

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Filling the Hole”: AI-Powered Program Targets Homelessness Crisis in Los Angeles

Los Angeles has made significant strides in providing housing and support services, but the relentless influx of people into homelessness has created a perpetual challenge. 

Dana Vanderford, a leader in the department’s Homelessness Prevention unit, aptly describes the situation as a “bucket with a hole in it,” necessitating innovative solutions to “fill that hole.”

To this end, the pilot program employs AI to predict individuals most susceptible to homelessness, enabling the county to intervene proactively and offer assistance. 

The program aggregates data from seven county agencies, including emergency room visits, crisis mental health care, substance abuse diagnoses, arrests, and enrollment in public benefit programs like food aid. 

Utilizing machine learning, the program generates a list of individuals deemed at the highest risk of losing their homes, many of whom are not part of existing prevention programs.

Vanderford underscores the significance of reaching out to individuals who harbor mistrust of institutional systems due to generational trauma. 

These individuals, shaped by their life experiences, are unlikely to seek help independently.

The pilot program deploys 16 case managers who divide the lists and initiate contact with the individuals, sending letters and making cold calls to offer support and resources that can prevent homelessness.

This innovative approach represents a critical step forward in addressing the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. 

By leveraging the capabilities of AI and data analysis, the county aims to intervene early and provide assistance to those most in need, addressing the gaps in the current system. 

It offers the potential to help countless individuals and families avoid the harsh reality of life on the streets, ushering in a new era where technology and empathy converge to combat one of society’s most pressing challenges.

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Source: NPR

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