According to the 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, there are 66,436 people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County, 72% of whom are unsheltered. The rate of unsheltered homelessness in Los Angeles County is among the highest in the nation, considerably more than the nationwide rate of 39%. It is difficult for housing and service providers to assist the unsheltered population; evidence suggests that people experiencing unsheltered homelessness are less likely to access healthcare and support services than those who are sheltered. Service organizations and agencies use street outreach strategies to locate and identify people experiencing homelessness who are not otherwise accessing support and connect them to available services and housing resources. Outreach has emerged as a key and well-funded component of Los Angeles County’s plan to address homelessness, with the county collaborating with city agencies and non-profit service organizations to coordinate efforts. Research on outreach to people experiencing homelessness is relatively limited; yet, outreach is common practice for homeless services providers in Los Angeles and elsewhere, and HUD recommends it as a strategy for reducing chronic homelessness. This literature review examines research on the effectiveness and impact of outreach programs, different strategies for successful outreach, and Los Angeles County’s specific approach to coordinated homeless outreach efforts.
Homeless Outreach: The Los Angeles County Context