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Report Finds and Explores Anti-Black Racial Inequities in Who Returns to Homelessness after Leaving Permanent Supportive Housing in Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA, October 6th, 2021 — A new report released today by the nonpartisan California Policy Lab (CPL) at UCLA provides an in-depth look at anti-Black racial inequities in who leaves permanent supportive housing (PSH) programs in Los Angeles and subsequently becomes homeless again. The researchers found that between 2010 and 2019, about one in four (25%) Black, single adult residents left PSH placements in L.A. and returned to either interim housing or to street homelessness.

Black PSH residents are 39% more likely to return to homelessness than White PSH residents. Adjusting for resident demographics, prior homelessness and Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) service history, housing type, and specific PSH programs, Black residents are still 19% more likely than White residents to return to homelessness. This analysis is unique because it is based on ten years of housing enrollment data, allowing the researchers to observe outcomes over a much longer time period than is typical for research focused on PSH outcomes.

To explore potential reasons behind this inequity, the research team interviewed and conducted focus groups with Black PSH residents, PSH program managers, and PSH case managers who shared how racial inequality impacts the experiences of Black PSH residents.

This research is a continuation of the work by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness. In its groundbreaking 2018 report, the Ad Hoc Committee found racial inequities in outcomes for Black residents of homeless services and called on the research community to further explore these inequities.

“This report by the California Policy Lab answered the call to action by LAHSA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness by centering the experiences of Black residents in its exploration of inequities in the permanent supporting housing system.” explains Heidi Marston, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. “This new report advances our understanding of why there are inequities and what steps we can take to improve the PSH system.”

“Residents and staff shared how racial inequality impacts the experience Black residents have in the PSH system in L.A., and how it contributes to higher numbers of Black people leaving PSH and returning to homelessness,” explains Norweeta Milburn, a co-author of the new report and a Research Professor-in-Residence in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA. “There’s a variety of ways that racial inequality shows up in the PSH system, and our report lays out specific policy recommendations for ways to address this issue to improve the experiences of Black PSH residents in Los Angeles.”

Key findings from focus groups and interviews
• Some Black PSH residents living in project-based buildings, particularly Black women, felt that their buildings were unsafe and that their safety complaints often went unaddressed.
• Black PSH residents explained that high turnover among case managers makes it difficult to receive consistent support, and weakens trust between residents and their case managers.
• PSH program staff cite microaggressions and racially discriminatory lease enforcement as pushing Black residents out of the PSH system, while residents reported dehumanizing treatment within the PSH system.
• Once leaving PSH, some Black residents feel ill-equipped to transition into non-PSH housing programs or the private market, and also cite a loss of support from case managers and losing connections to case managers as making the transition harder.
• Overall, there appears to be a mis-match between how Black residents view PSH (as a temporary step to more long-term solutions like Section 8 vouchers) and the PSH system.

Policy recommendations:
1. Acknowledge and collect information about the range of PSH types in Los Angeles County. Developing a more accurate and expansive typology of PSH in LA county may help quantify and address inequities occurring throughout the system.
2. Plan for a more differentiated PSH system in LA County. Black residents interviewed for this report view PSH as an interim step towards more independent and permanent Section 8 housing, and the system should plan for varying retention and turnover rates based on residents’ housing goals.
3. Address implicit bias and discrimination among case managers, property managers, and landlords.
4. Fund 24-hour services to enhance security and equip nighttime staff with trauma-informed skills to de-escalate issues.
5. Reduce turnover among case managers and develop a peer advocate program that can be used as a career pathway to become a PSH case manager.
6. Provide sustained services to support transitions to independent housing after people leave PSH.

The California Policy Lab creates data-driven insights for the public good. Our mission is to partner with California’s state and local governments to generate scientific evidence that solves California’s most urgent issues, including homelessness, poverty, criminal justice reform, and education inequality. We facilitate close working partnerships between policymakers and researchers at the University of California to help evaluate and improve public programs through empirical research and technical assistance.

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