Giving Compass' Take:

• Steve Chiotakis explains how Santa Monica reduced emergency service costs by addressing the underlying needs of homeless 911 callers. 

• How can funders work to increase the understanding of the long-term impacts of programs like this one? 

• Learn about a high impact opportunity to address homelessness


In 2016, the City of Santa Monica created a team of specialists to work full-time on housing one specific subset of the homeless population: people who generate the most 911 calls.

By targeting those who use the most taxpayer-funded emergency services, city officials aimed to save both money and lives. The most expensive people are often also the most vulnerable and most likely to die on the streets without a serious intervention. Now research shows the effort is paying off.

Santa Monica’s “homeless multidisciplinary street team” is made up of social workers, mental health and medical professionals from The People Concern, a nonprofit that aims to help house people.

The team started three years ago with a list of the city’s 26 most expensive homeless people, calculated using data from the police and fire departments, as well as local hospitals. Since then, the team has permanently housed 19 people and added 11 new names to its list.

A recent study by the research organization the RAND Corporation finds that the City of Santa Monica spends approximately $600,000 a year on the multidisciplinary street team, but saves between 17% and 43% of that in avoided 911 calls.

The study predicts that those savings will grow over time — a conclusion that echoes the findings of a similar experiment in Los Angeles County a decade ago.

Read the full article about homeless 911 callers by Steve Chiotakis at KCRW.