Rising costs of living are a top concern across the country. This is particularly important for organizations that seek to support vulnerable populations. This report explores what constitutes a living wage in Los Angeles County and the barriers preventing workers in the homeless response sector from receiving such a wage.

The authors examined what a living wage is in Los Angeles County using fair market rents for various unit sizes and several family configurations. They then collected data on wages listed in job postings within Los Angeles County for frontline and management occupations in the homeless response sector to assess earning potential. They find that workers at nonprofit organizations, particularly frontline staff, often do not earn a living wage, which contributes to the financial, emotional, and health burdens that these workers face. This is likely to affect employee productivity and retention as well as the quality and continuity of client care.

Key Findings

  • The status quo is unsustainable
  • Organizations are understaffed and lack resources.
  • Workers in the sector, particularly frontline staff, face difficult working conditions, which include navigating complex systems to assist their clients and striving to maintain their own safety in potentially dangerous situations.
  • Workers are also at risk of experiencing secondary trauma.
  • These conditions, along with low pay, have led to burnout and high turnover, which is likely to negatively affect the quality and continuity of client care.


  • Funders should cover the full cost of service, including cost-of-living wage increases in contracts and grants, and could engage in an ongoing assessment of pay and equity in the sector.
  • Organizations could improve collaboration to support and advocate for workers.
  • All parties in the sector could work together to reduce conflicts of interest regarding worker staffing and pay and to build political will for long-term solutions.

Read the full article about wages for homeless response sector employees by Lisa Abraham, Sarah B. Hunter, Samantha Matthews, and Alex Sizemore at RAND Corporation.