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Do Time-Limited Subsidy Programs Reduce Homelessness for Single Adults?

POLICY BRIEF: Do time-limited subsidy programs reduce homelessness for single adults? PDF

WORKING PAPER: Do time-limited subsidy programs reduce homelessness for single adults? PDF

PRESS RELEASE: New research finds Time-Limited Housing Subsidy programs can help reduce homelessness in Los Angeles

WEBINAR: How Time-Limited Subsidy Programs are Reducing Homelessness in Los Angeles

Over 70,000 people experience homelessness on any given night in Los Angeles. The policy response for these individuals is a mix of interim-housing (e.g. shelters) and interventions where the goal is to place individuals in long-term housing solutions. One of these long-term housing solutions — time-limited subsidy (TLS) programs, often referred to as Rapid Re-housing (RRH) — has steadily grown from 7% of the “beds” counted nationally in 2013 to 24% of the beds in 2021. These programs are particularly relevant in Los Angeles where they represented 64% of the long-term housing solution “beds” in 2019.

TLS programs were originally conceptualized as a strategy to quickly rehouse individuals who experienced homelessness due to a financial shock. TLS programs help individuals move into market rentals and financially support their tenancy, with typical two-year time limits. This study shows four-year outcomes for 3,677 individuals enrolled in TLS in Los Angeles between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2018. Sixty-two percent of TLS participants received the intended financial assistance to move into a rental unit. Our study sample includes all enrollees in the program, not just people who moved in and received the subsidy, which is necessary for the research design and relevant for understanding the effects for all who were enrolled.

Key Research Findings

1. Implementation of time-limited subsidies in Los Angeles is challenging. 3,677 unique individuals were enrolled in TLS during the study period from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018. Of those enrolled, 62% moved into a market-rate rental and received the subsidy. This finding suggests ongoing challenges to implementing TLS in Los Angeles and this particular data point is important for identifying areas for improvement in TLS.

2. Enrollment in TLS reduces future homelessness by 25%. Enrollment in TLS programs decreases homelessness, defined as future enrollment in Street Outreach or Interim Housing services. Specifically, 38.4% of similar individuals not enrolling in TLS experienced future homelessness compared to 29.2% of TLS participants (a 9.2 percentage point reduction).

3. Positive benefits exist across racial and ethnic groups. Black, Latinx, and White participants in TLS all experienced statistically significant reductions in homelessness. However, the benefits were largest for Latinx participants (30.6% decrease) and smallest for Black participants (19.1% decrease).

4. People with different risk levels of future homelessness benefit from TLS, but there are important differences. TLS programs were originally designed to quickly rehouse people experiencing homelessness due to a financial shock, however, people with varying service histories related to health, mental health and criminal legal involvement, are increasingly enrolled in TLS. Because of this, we want to assess the program’s effectiveness across a dimension of risk to experiencing homelessness again in the future. To do this, we stratify the people in our study into three groups that correspond to future risk of experiencing homelessness, and then estimate the impacts for each group. TLS participants from all three groups experienced a 25% reduction in homelessness compared to similar adults. This suggests that TLS can be effective for adults with both low and high risk of future homelessness.

Suggested citation: Blackwell, B., Santillano, R. (2023). Do Time-Limited Subsidy Programs Reduce Homelessness for Single Adults? California Policy Lab.

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