RAND research finds the homeless avoid big shelters but want to get off the streets – San Bernardino Sun

People living on streets in three Los Angeles neighborhoods and one Westside encampment expressed a “near-universal interest” in getting housed, but 43% were never contacted to move into housing, according to RAND Corporation research released Wednesday, May 4.

The fact that 43% said they were never contacted about housing may be the “most important” finding of their research so far, to help local leaders address L.A.’s homelessness crisis, researchers wrote in their report.

About 90% of unsheltered people who participated in the survey expressed interest in getting housing, researchers said. Half were offered housing or shelter, and one-third are on housing waitlists, they said.

“We found a near-universal interest in obtaining housing among our survey respondents, but about half of those we spoke to remain unhoused, despite reporting being offered housing in the past,” said Jason M. Ward, an economist and lead author of the RAND report.

RAND researchers also found that other top deterrents to housing cited by people living on the streets were safety concerns and lack of privacy in offered housing.

Researchers said this means that the congregate shelters that city and county leaders have put more funding into in recent months, “might have a limited ability to effectively address homelessness.”

Of those surveyed, 80% said they would accept a private room in any form of housing, or a permanent stay at a hotel or motel, or permanent supportive housing.

Respondents were less interested in group shelters or sober living homes. About half said they would accept safe camping, short-term or transitional shelters, or shared housing.

“The type of housing offered to unsheltered people matters a lot,” Ward said. “Our findings suggest that large expansions in shelter capacity in the city may do little to move unhoused people off the streets.”

Other factors the unhoused respondents cited as preventing them from getting housed were challenges with filing paperwork, the hours at shelters, or the curfews at shelters. Location and lack of cleanliness, followed by various house rules, were also considered obstacles.

The findings are among early results from systematic random surveys of 216 people in Skid Row, Venice, Hollywood and “Veterans Row” near the Veterans Affairs building on the Westside. The surveys were conducted from September 2021 through January 2022. The results were offered up amid an often contentious conversation in Los Angeles on the homelessness crisis.

Angelenos cite ending homelessness as their top priority, and it is a key issue in this year’s municipal elections. The issue is locked in debates over the reasons people are homeless, and what should be done to most effectively help people get off the streets.

In an effort to quickly remove encampments, the city of Los Angeles recently adopted an anti-camping ordinance, LAMC 41.18, and continues to enforce other laws restricting people from living on sidewalks, in parks, and in other areas.

The anti-camping law was adopted after a court ruling in the Martin v. Boise case said that such laws can be enforced as long as people are offered shelter. The court ruling did not specify the type of shelter or whether it needs to be permanent housing.

Meanwhile, the city has begun carrying out operations to force people out of encampments in public spaces, such as parks and plazas, then fencing off those areas to prevent people from returning to rebuild makeshift shelters and set up tents.

An operation at Echo Park Lake a year ago led to 200 unhoused people being forced out. Although city leaders claimed those people were offered housing, many ended up on the streets in other areas of the city.

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