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Program seeing success using AI to predict risk of homelessness

Homeless Los Angeles Freeway
Posted at 11:13 AM, Nov 08, 2023

A first-of-its-kind program is trying to use artificial intelligence to predict who's at risk of becoming homeless and then get them help before that happens.

The program through the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services tracks things like sign-ups for public benefits like food help, crisis care for mental health and arrests.

Then the AI comes up with a list of people at high risk of becoming homeless in the next 12 months.

"We had a hunch when we were building the model that those sorts of crisis level interactions with a high level of frequency were probably indicators of broader instability in someone's life. You know, somebody is going to the emergency room several times a month might be an indicator that they're not attached to a primary care physician, and that they're using the ER as their primary source of health care," said Dana Vanderford with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

Once someone is on the list, they receive a cold call from a case manager like Diana Dudar.

"Sometimes we meet them right at the perfect time, and that's kind of what we always hear when our clients answer our calls. They tell us, you know, praying about this and I was just I was just hoping somebody was gonna call and this is my sign," said Dudar.

But Dudar tells us often times it's hard to reach people on the list or they're hesitant to get help.

"I kept assuming that it was a scam and when he told me he said, I'm gonna tell you like this, I got $10,000 for you. I was speechless," said Jerri Johnson, a client in the prevention program.

Before she received that call, Johnson received a notice she'd need to move within 90 days.

The program helped her get into the home that she's in now.

"I would have been on the street, or living with my daughter in a one bedroom. I don't know where my son or my fiancee or my brother, he's disabled you know. I don't know what they would be," said Johnson.

Vanderford who leads the homelessness prevention unit tells us so far the results of the pilot program are encouraging.

The program lasts for 4 to 6 months, and of the more than 500 people they've helped, nearly 90-percent have kept their permanent housing during that time.

Now they're studying if this continues to be the case long-term.

Depending on what they find, this pilot could be a model.

Vanderford tells us they're already getting contacted by leaders in other cities who are interested.