Homeless Housing Program Leads To Significant Cost Savings

A County program that has created permanent housing opportunities for dozens of homeless individuals has resulted in a cost avoidance of over $800,000 in medical and hospital costs in the past year. The Access to Housing for Health pilot program (AHH) was created by Supervisor Don Knabe in December 2006 and utilizes $3 million of the $80 million in funding for Countywide homeless prevention initiatives that was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2006.

The primary goal of AHH is to improve discharge opportunities for homeless men and women receiving taxpayer-subsidized medical care at County hospitals by connecting them with permanent housing resources. Upon leaving County hospitals, homeless individuals are provided with housing vouchers, as well as supportive services designed to help them successfully address their chronic illnesses and remain in housing.

As of January 30, 2009, 49 homeless clients in the AHH program have been placed in permanent housing, including 37 men and women who have been housed for more than one year. The 37 clients had a combined total of 152 emergency room visits during the 12 months prior to their enrollment. Since their enrollment, the 37 clients only had a combined total of 27 emergency room visits, a reduction of 82-percent.

The 37 clients also had a combined total of 305 inpatient hospital days in the 12 months prior to their enrollment in AHH. Since enrollment, these same clients only had 27 inpatient days, a reduction of 93-percent.

The reduction in emergency room visits represents a cost avoidance of approximately $117,000 and the reduction in inpatient hospital visits represents approximately $748,000 in taxpayer funds. All told, the AHH program helped avoid $865,000 in taxpayer spending that would have otherwise been used to pay for emergency and inpatient hospitalizations for homeless men and women. By addressing the underlying issue (lack of housing), the AHH participants can better manage their chronic conditions in an outpatient setting, shifting away from costly emergency medical care.

The AHH program is designed to place up to 115 homeless individuals into Section 8 or conventional public housing. The Housing Authorities of the County and the City of Los Angeles each set aside 50 of their Section 8 vouchers for the program. In addition, the County Housing Authority set aside 15 conventional public housing units for the AHH program.

The AHH program staff works with the Housing Authorities to fast track these vouchers within one month of application submission. The AHH program also provides temporary housing, so that participants will not have to remain homeless while waiting for their permanent housing placement.

"Above all, this program has successfully connected dozens of homeless men and women with permanent housing, but also saving tax dollars in the process," said Supervisor Knabe. "Before AHH, we had virtually no way to ensure that homeless men and women leaving our hospitals would receive safe permanent housing or appropriate care. Now we do."