The overall homeless population in Los Angeles County continues to grow as inflows into homelessness outpace exits to housing. The key to preventing homelessness is to ensure scarce prevention resources are going to people who will become homeless without those resources. In this study, we evaluate the surveys used to screen adults and families who self-identify as being at risk of homelessness. Specifically, we evaluate screening surveys called Prevention Targeting Tools (PTTs) currently used by homelessness prevention service providers in the City and County of Los Angeles. The PTTs are used to determine whether people are eligible for prevention services. Participants seeking prevention services must first meet two eligibility criteria: they must be at imminent risk of homelessness (i.e., will lose housing within 30 days) and have an income at or below 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Los Angeles County. If they meet those criteria, they take the PTT, their answers are assigned points, and then a total score determines eligibility for services. There are separate versions of the PTTs for families, single adults, and transition-age youth (TAY). Those eligible for prevention typically receive short-term financial assistance (e.g., rental assistance, utility assistance) ranging on average between $1,000 to $5,000, legal assistance, and/or mediation with landlords or property managers.
Guided by our research questions, we developed improved PTTs that can be used in a variety of different settings to determine eligibility for homelessness prevention programs among people who self-identify as being at risk.