Jun 5, 2019
In Santa Monica, California, homelessness is a chronic and persistent problem. It is also expensive. Individuals experiencing chronic homelessness suffer disproportionately from serious physical and mental health conditions and are less likely than the general population to seek services to address these conditions. For these reasons, chronically homeless individuals are often repeat users of emergency services — including medical, law-enforcement, and paramedic-response services. This pattern of service use is costly for cities in terms of both dollars and manpower.
Assertive community treatment — an approach to homelessness that gets people into affordable housing and provides health care and other support services — can reduce public costs associated with chronic homelessness. In 2016, the City of Santa Monica invested $600,000 into such an approach, creating the Homeless Multidisciplinary Street Team (HMST). The HMST consists of a team of specialists who locate and engage the most-intensive service users among Santa Monica's homeless individuals to help them obtain housing and address other needs.
The program aims to reduce the burden on public service providers and diminish associated public costs by lessening the number of times that homeless individuals use public services and interact with public service providers, including police and emergency medical responders.
RAND researchers evaluated the program's success in achieving its goals. They used a mixed methods approach that combined a qualitative analysis of the effect of the HMST on important stakeholder groups and a quantitative analysis both of the effect of the HMST on important outcomes and on potential cost savings associated with these effects.
Community Perceptions of Program Effectiveness
Changes in Outcomes and Financial Impact
Discussion, Conclusions, and Recommendations