Homelessness in Los Angeles County is a problem being addressed by researchers and policymakers, said USC expert Gary Painter. (Photo/iStock)


New partnership at USC seeks solutions to reduce homelessness in L.A.

The Homelessness Policy Research Institute aims to offer timely, relevant and actionable research in Los Angeles County

April 23, 2018 USC staff

The USC Price Center for Social Innovation and the United Way of Greater Los Angeles Home for Good initiative have joined forces to create the Homelessness Policy Research Institute, a group of local and national experts dedicated to studying and solving homelessness.

Funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and support from the Home for Good Funders Collaborative, the institute will bring together over 30 policymakers and local and national researchers to design and coordinate actionable research to end homelessness for 58,000 people in Los Angeles County.

The urgent need to reduce the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County requires a new model of collaboration between researchers and policymakers.

Gary Painter

“The urgent need to reduce the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County requires a new model of collaboration between researchers and policymakers,” said Gary Painter, the director of the institute and the USC Price Center for Social Innovation.

The institute calls upon the region’s top scholars from a range of disciplines, including housing and real estate, economics, behavioral and primary health care, social services, and social network theory, to conduct timely, actionable research that informs policymaking at all levels of government, he said.

“From economic concerns to mental health needs, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when addressing homelessness. We ask leaders from across all sectors to join together, and as a community, we need to be quick, nimble and efficient to identify and implement effective solutions,” said Elise Buik, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “The expertise represented in the Homelessness Policy Research Institute will be a great catalyst for the change that needs to happen countywide.”

A four-pronged approach to reduce homelessness in L.A.

The new institute works to end homelessness in L.A. County through four primary activities. It will:

  • Foster collaboration and coordination among researchers focused on homelessness in the Los Angeles region.
  • Share current and upcoming research with policymakers and community partners to inform on-the-ground work.
  • Conduct rapid-response policy research to inform policy and program design.
  • Provide assistance in developing and coordinating request for proposals for homelessness research relevant to Los Angeles County.

“This collaboration between policymakers and the research community will ensure that policies and programs aimed at ending homelessness benefit from leveraging Los Angeles’ research resources,” said Bill Pitkin, director of domestic programs at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “In order to make effective policy and program decisions that positively impact our homeless neighbors, we must ensure that they are informed by research on what works in ending homelessness.”

The institute is committed to collaboration across universities and has tapped Janey Rountree, executive director of the California Policy Lab at UCLA, to serve as an associate director of the institute.

“The California Policy Lab and the broader UCLA community recognize the enormity of the homelessness crisis facing Los Angeles and are committed to working with our colleagues at USC and other research institutions involved in [the institute] to help find solutions,” Rountree said.

Applying research for the greater good

The institute’s research helps inform funding allocations that affect homeless individuals, including Measures H and HHH, which provided tax support for the development of new housing and the expansion of services for the homeless.

Additionally, the institute informs the research activities of local and regional homelessness agencies. Most recently, it assisted the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) in developing a request for proposals to evaluate a new family homelessness prevention pilot program, Solid Ground Van Nuys, which provides housing stabilization services to families who are at risk of becoming homeless.

The program and its evaluation are funded by the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Shelia Kuehl. LAHSA worked with the institute to develop the research framework for the program and select an evaluation partner.

“While 58,000 people experience homelessness on any given night in L.A. County, there are another 700,000 severely rent-burdened households whose housing instability puts them at great risk of homelessness,” said LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn. “Our partnership with the institute will allow us to better serve people facing housing crises by evaluating the effectiveness of the programs we have to serve them.”