When Tulicia Lee tried to get help with housing, she was essentially put on a big long list with a bunch of other homeless people. If you live in the U.S., your community probably has a list like this too. Where one ends up on the list can have huge implications, but how one rises to the top of it is a bit of a mystery. In this episode, Katie finally gets to see how it works.
The way homelessness has exploded in California over the last decade, you’d think there was no system in place to address it. But there is one - it just wasn’t designed to help everyone. According to Need is a documentary podcast in 5 chapters from 99% Invisible that asks: what are we doing to get people into housing?
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I want to tell you, but upon cast, I think an IP islanders were really like its upon gas from sidewalk labs. Called city of the future is wrapped season three, which drove into some really great ideas that could transform cities. Things like flexible streets, factory based construction in generative design. They talk to experts and they go into the field too, for their episode about Roma work, which I think you homebound listeners wouldn't especially dig. They took a trip to Estonia, a place that really has figured out how to live, work and even vote digitally the last. How when we had elections, I was having medication in my needs an apparent asylum as I was just lying on a beach. I tried my laptop. We had internet connection there and I voted for the candidate I wanted to. You can subscribe to city of the future wherever you listen upon, casts or visit sidewalk labs, dot, com, slush, nine, nine p. I.
Last year when two leisurely called two and anyone so that she and her son could get help with housing or shelter. The operator told
to go into an assessment so that she can get into the coordinated entry system or sea
As she calls it, okay, so tomorrow you can go at one p m at their Henry Robinson Multi Service Centre to join assessment for the Save II programme.
Till he should did that. She sat down with a social worker and answered some questions and was entered into the system, but she
and of getting any help with housing at the edges.
The like somebody I forgot about me,
If get about me and my winter
you shot a nerd that system. She was essentially being put on a big long list with a bunch of other homeless people, but what she didn't realize
and when I didn't know at the time was that this list, it wasn't just a first, come first served. Q, it was
list of all the homeless people in Alameda County ranked according to need the people at the top organs
the most in need of housing, and they were pray.
Organised first for help. I dont think its hyperbolic.
to say that people may actually live or die according to where they end up on this list? Homelessness is lethal.
study, in LOS Angeles and the early two thousands found that the average age of death for homeless person was forty years old. That life expectancy is about thirty six percent,
shorter overall housing
it was more years of life and being at the top of the list is a path housing
I want to know why, as a single mom, struggling with her mental health and living in a car with their kid to leave,
I wasn't high enough on the list to get help. Wishing clothes are far away
This is a ranking of needs. How are they determining whose need is the greatest
Finally, answers to these questions I'm gonna. Take you deep inside of this. Bureaucracy like Russian
Nothing dolls there's layers to this thing, but I promise we are going to,
the mystery of where to Asia,
did up on this list and why it feels so many people
this is according to need chapter four,
if I wanted to know where Teresa had been unless they needed
someone who had access to it, who could actually pull it up on their computer screen
and look at it, but that proved to be difficult. Yeah sorry found her first call that I had with her back September
twenty nineteen in my notes, yeah collar, has been sleeping in our car with their said, this is elsewhere
consequently, as she works it to one one and she's, actually the operator who told to leisure she should go and get into the coordinated entry system or in other words, get on the list, and are you awake
operator? Are you able to see where she would have ended up on that were snow? The wind I mean
even thought someone had on our how they prioritized the live. I don't know how there
people from the list, but we got shot,
a very good at getting people on lists and then
the sun you're not on the list are, you went all the way back
onto the bottom of the list. It's all a huge mystery,
and so many conversations about the list and the bureaucracy behind it and I have found out any
In specific about two yet, but one thing I learned
is that the way homeless services are administered in this country is that the Department of Housing and urban development, a K Hud, gives big grants every year to non profit
will organise themselves in the community's like, for example, all the nonprofits anatomy
County are part of one group nature. One pot of money.
How does it usually able to give these local communities all of the funding they apply for because heard itself also doesn't get all the funding it asks for from Congress, and because funding is scarce
a few years ago had told local communities all over the EU ass? They would have to implement systems
coordinated entry systems to make sure the limited resources went to the people most in need what this man was at, all
The! U S, communities like Alameda County had to make a list of all the homeless people in their particular area,
ranked according to need and then figure out how to get the available resources to those p,
prioritizing the people at the top of the list. Eventually,
I figured out than an Alameda county.
Organization that led the effort to implement the coordinated entry system was called everyone home, so
Maybe someone at everyone home had access to the list. Like
Someone has to be looking at this thing and making decisions about the people at the top of it right. Terry
I Julie led better. She since left the oars.
Position, but she used to work for everyone home and she helped put the coordinated entry system in place. This part of it is like a crucial piece which remain.
hi nerve, mysterious to me, the coordinated and she peace agreements always referring to dollar straight
yeah feels a little bit like the wizard of OZ. I guess my first question is like: are you
the wizard. Is this eyes. I am not the wizard this with mother, but I can give you
the system manual, which explains the whole thing yeah I do. I do have a map of us. Ok, can you like look at it together? Yes,
We heard ass communities all over the country that implement this system, that ranked people according to need. The question
Four Julie and her colleagues became ok, who is,
most in need of help
who shall we prioritize for these very, very scarce resources after Samson
Belarus is very successful. Work with housing, first experts and policy,
I started to think that the people who should be prioritized for resources were the kinds of people. Sam had been working with people who are often
dealing with a lot of challenges, mental or physical illnesses, disabilities, addiction. These were the people there,
research showed where the most likely to die on the street if no one intervened, and importantly, they were
also the people most likely to use costly services like shelters or detox owners are yours, but there is a fear that these folks were
getting services because they were hard to work with her
had a hard time self advocating reasons. So
according to an entry, also came a time where people said await the people who really need this are not getting them, and so
The folks in Alameda County, like Julie, started to answer that question who should be prioritized. They would have been thinking about that group and they also asked homeless people themselves. What other folks
I'm struggling but that person over there that person needs up for.
In the end. Alameda counting came up with a vulnerability assessments, a questionnaire, basically your. This was the thing
Felicia had done with the social worker where she had
answer questions lake. Does anyone
your household suffer from depression or schizophrenia. Do you have a disability? Do you have any
on health conditions in the past thirty days, and we had to do things that felt unsafe to survive.
The homeless person on Alameda Counties List has been given this same assessment and depending on how they answer each question. They get a score and it's that score
That determines their place on the list. So that's where you hear about the list in the
long right now, and there are currently around eight thousand household
son, Alameda Counties list, a household can be an
individual or it can be a mother and her kids, for example, unduly such said she thinks of those eight thousand households only about twenty percent will get some kind of resource. The resources are sort of unspent cheats and only a few hundred of those households, the one
at the very top of the list will get the kind of housing that you heard about in the last chapter. What's now called permanent supportive housing, where your rent is
today, for the rest of your life, plus you get access to other support
less intense interventions, people can get like short term help with red or one time hope with a deposit but deletion.
As we know, got none of these things, and sadly Julie was not the person who could tell me exactly why
and so when you're ordered on the less that that gives your rank on this list, but then your matching. So this is the matters
its people out there who are doing their spyware, who are those people they're all across the county? These matters? They are the people that look at the list and match the people at the top. With resources
housing I needed to talk to one of them and
story short. I had to send a bunch more emails, make a bunch more calls and then finally, I found a matter a person with access to the list, hurry, doing well organ from home, yes
this is like he shall Livingston and she is a matter
I am doing the matching and it's very and biased as far as our work, because the computer tells me it's based on a scoring system which,
These are higher need than other families with
x for an organization called building futures and she spends a lot of time looking,
the sub section, the list that includes households with kids when you're. Looking at that list,
day every day. Look at it, you can. I
really familiar with where people are went, they rank in its just like mesmerizing, since not only
like you should look at the list, but she could tell me what Tunisia had scored.
On her vulnerability assessment, which is ultimately what determines how high or low she would have been analysed. This was the person I
looking for, I was trying to keep a cool, but I was so excited and that's that
What I was hoping you guys would share with me so that I can understand kind of lake. Why someone like her witness moved into shelter,
or housing? So I can't specifically gave you a score. I truly thought me
hopes have been dashed at this moment, but then locations supervisor, who is also a call jumped in and was like it's cool. We have permission from Tunisia to share this info carelessly here.
I'm looking at the actual assessment right now would you shall start skimming through two issues: answers on the assessment,
has been homeless, you know multiple times. She states that she checked
until health Ronicky health conditions. All of this,
up to a score of till she was that one twenty one twenty
That was her score on the assessment. The higher your score
the more vulnerable your considered to be, and the higher you are on the list is above the average range. Why just not quite high enough like right now, if I'm looking at the list to place families, I'm not even near when twenty William? Yes, I am still at
about one hundred and fifty there are lots of people to Keisha says who score one hundred and fifty or one hundred and sixty or one hundred and ninety or higher. They just ticked more boxes
vulnerability, assessment and militia, and so they ended up higher on the less than her disabilities, the big one, HIV,
Positive is another one. Another factor that gets you more points on. The assessment is the length of time
unless Felicia had only been in the car for a few months before that she was doubled. Up with
friends or family members, which remember, doesn't even count as homeless. According to this system,
There were such limited resources, and so many people considered more vulnerable than to leave that shit.
never made it down to the still vulnerable, but not vulnerable enough. One twenties its devastating, sometimes because you want to help- and you know we are problematic rules that we have to follow. So it's just issues one of those things that is, that
now. You just cut it out. This is my job and I don't make the system, but this is the way the system is operating and you just you know, but it does. It does take a toll on you to do so
ok, Felicia had a slightly above average vulnerability score of one twenty. She hadn't checked enough boxes to get a higher score. She didn't check thing.
like have you ever been convicted of methamphetamine production or arson? Or do you have an excessive
dependency on drugs or alcohol and-
The system we have now those things actually help you move to the top of the list, because there thought of as indicators that is going to be,
hard for you to get into housing on your own people with those kinds,
Issues are more likely to stay homeless. If no one intervenes,
that makes some sense right, but a system
not in a way rewards things like addiction or criminal record. It's going
be controversial to some people, everybody
has their own opinion about who should be prioritize, who sudden,
You hear a lot of conversation whose deserving who's not serve it again. Julie led better who helped build
system and Alameda County its manifest
Does a lot and terms of like that.
Drug user, doesn't deserve it. Either they getting prioritized its wild. When you
about how far things are from wind. Sam's embarrassed started: housing first, the we looked pre housing first was that only people who
clean and mentally sound enough to navigate the system God Housing now is the opposite.
now the more of these kinds of barriers and vulnerabilities, you have the more alike.
You are to get help. Her
and, as a result, all of the local communities. It funds have decided to focus on this group. For reasons both
moral and financial. This
group really is more likely to die on the street if they don't come inside and also there are the most likely
costs the government money. If they stay outside but and stay with me here,
prioritizing this group. What
however, the reason its hat
and unintended consequence in some communities it can actually and favouring white people. One
My and other people's concerns have been that because
there's so much structural racism, it is much easier,
to become homeless, secure black- this is my
go crucial, she's a doctor and a researcher on homelessness at the University of California San Francisco. So what
we see if you just look at the Bahamas population? The black folks look healthier, because too
homeless and back means you could just be poor.
In general. This is a sweeping translation, but in general, more higher proportion of the white folks who are homeless. Have these
civilities that are related to the Hamas has not everyone, of course, but you're more likely. I want
jumping here, because I think this is tricky to understand but important. So ok think about it like this, a white per cent.
standing on a diving word and homelessness is what happens if they fall over the edge, but
it's a long, diving bored with plenty of space, every personal difficulty is a push towards the edge,
an injury on the job, a little push the onset of depression. A push in it
fiction. Another push by the time this wiper
then gets to the edge and finally falls into homelessness. They may have acumen
a lot of pushes you can think of.
is as vulnerabilities. On the other hand,
People of color, and especially black people because of the racial wealth gap and other disparity is caused by systemic racism. They just often have a show.
Ro Diving Board to begin with, which means one
push might send a black person over the edge, so there
just more relatively healthy black people who fall into homelessness, and this matters when it
I'm still coordinated entry system because the system gives
He bore a higher score if they have accumulated more vulnerabilities, like addiction, mental illness, etc, and so what people who have inherit
This are found- and this is true in many places across the country- is at the white folks are more likely.
The gas resources just because they
score higher because you scoring systems are based on individual of other body.
County, I should say, is actually work to address this issue by adding different kinds of questions to their assessment and white people, or not
currently getting resources at a higher rate than people of color, but these issues with the assessment.
Still a problem in other places across the. U S, and if you like it
we can see from this. Is that it's hard to find a framework for
vulnerability that fits everyone like where it as this framework,
focuses so much on things like mental illness and addiction. Where does it
Felicia son, Jordan.
seven year old kid who doesn't have those particular issues but is vulnerable
in so many different ways. So, ok, the assessment process is imperfect, but the biggest problem, the biggest problem, isn't that figuring out who, in the most vulnerable people are, is tricky. It's that in Alameda County there are eight thousand people on the list and the vast majority
then we'll get nothing not to mention all of the people who never even make it onto the list to begin with, because they aren't can
literally homeless and those people who don't get in
help from the system are, who don't even get to enter this system? They don't just disappear
some of them will find their way back into housing, but many
you them want an event.
Some folks will end up in more vulnerable and often more visible forms of homelessness. People who start out
friends couch may end up in a car, but then the cargo toad, and they end up in a tent by the side of the road
the way they accumulate trauma they get injured or assaulted, or have mental health crises brought on by stress
eventually, there are more and more people who can check a lot of those boxes on the vulnerability assessment, and there is not even enough resources for all of them down.
What's already happening right now in Alameda counting the system is just comply
ITALY, overwhelmed by pressure on this,
system to do well and a bigger than to be efficient and
be clear. Just feels like it,
and we were all just experiencing this- we want to be the best you can
in a time of crisis, and you know you're not quite there yet Emma and they have to keep working on it. People look
trying to make this whole thing run more smoothly. They try to make it as fair as possible, but the thing is no matter how
you work on the system if you're trying to feed eight thousand people with two thousand sandwiches that now
is just never gonna work out and people like Julie, who were
Can this system who helped build it? They know that states
I don't need me a reporter too pointed out. They feel the system's deficiencies, all the time and its hard on them
It wasn't until the end of my interview with Julie, as I was getting up to leave that I realise just how hard thank you love
the man realized that either, but I just think about others. Frontline people covered by these days,
turn on the streets. All the workers here doing his house with him, and I was like everybody, it's just an incredibly brutal x and stays
There is feeling this pressure to do more people doing no art
People are really doing a lot at first slot more to be done.
It's not just Joe
So many of the people I talk to who work in this system have the sense that they are being asked to solve this problem without having been given the resources to do it like Russia.
from two on one. She told me them.
Thing she understands now about homelessness that she didn't understand before the job is that for most people out there there is no help what're they getting nothing
sit back in a circle to cards you on one and causes out and say you
I wasn't doing Vienna this in that for me, everything
where the emergency room for the community, we take it, but it's like. We share our frustration lake. We don't like telling people we don't have these resources
every person. I met working in the different corners of this system. One aid there to be more resources and local communities,
is like Alameda County are always scrambling to find new revenue sources, since they don't get anywhere near enough funding from heard ballot in this.
Sales taxes, state funds and if we want to help the people were homeless right now.
We will need this system to have all of the resources it requires to do that, but that one
actually solve the bigger problem, because this system
wasn't designed to do that when homelessness
aren't exploding in the nineteen eighties. People didn't understand what was happening. We blame the Andes
institutional innovation and crack homelessness,
was something that happened to people who were well and we created assist.
To respond to the people who seemed the least well, the least capable of solving
their own homelessness, the most votes
all we called them, but increasingly experts agree that homelessness
Caused by mental illness or addiction, those things concern
as the catalyst, but they aren't the cause. The cause is economic. If people
can't afford housing, making minimum wage or can afford housing at their own social security or disability. Here
just gonna have homelessness, which is why it feels cleared.
Me after all of this, that the home,
Service system cannot solve homelessness and I guess if the journey
into understanding. This system has been like opening a set of russian nesting dolls. This is
one of the centre? Those system can't solve homelessness.
Can only address it. It can treat the symptoms, but not the disease.
Only Simon treating the symptoms all that. Well, we are still talking about how we are just about to people on the street today. It's unbelievable may recognize that voice it sands embarrass her. These homeless people off the street will lead to a peaceful those people in these are just the current victims of a system that creating homelessness much faster than we are entering a source. If you took the sixty or eighty thousand people on the streets right now,
I was down, you haven't, ended homelessness because next year you gonna have twenty of the year after forty and sixty in some ways it was sands work with the most vulnerable that led to the system we have now, which focuses:
only on them. But SAM thinks that if we are really going to solve homelessness, we're gonna have to prevent people from ending up homeless
in the first place by making sure that extremely low income folks have access to housing they can afford. That's all we had before the eighties. Someone sat back not the way it was then, with
poor people sequestered in ghettos, but mixed income
development on a massive scale, where's the plan to build eighty thousand units of affordable housing overdue. Two hundred you had severe all just got four hundred wounded yours. What are we really saw? What but it's like
SAM get so worked up when he talks about all this he's infuriated that
Ass, a society we dont, invest in truly fixing this problem. We just do these
half measures and then wonder why they haven't worked
Instead of doing what really needs to be done, we ve built a whole system.
Industry around addressing homelessness for a very, very small number of people, but soon.
so works inside this system, and when I
ask him why he hasn't just given up on it completely? He says it's because
it still worth it. It's
It matters to how's. Even just one person
on the last episode of according to need one person. Finally, actually,
it's something from this system
what's going on in your world right now, San nothing else going on in world treaty. This is by.
Homelessness and when I try and go for a walk to stop thinking about it a little bit after the break. A preview of our final episode.
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a further ten. I didn't want to break the law.
the lid somebody had to sleep lifted his eyes. I need to live now. You won't help Casey give honor. You want me to do it as I'm taking you dare to savour ten
I'm trying to figure out the situation in which he might use your escape hatch.
nor is it just like knowing its there like knowing he says it's really hard to find a decent place in Berkeley with about her. If you do find a place in Berkeley without her, they tend not to be the nicest places.
You know this there. During the inventing the nun apartments dared not bedrooms beds for twelve,
hundred a month at college. Twelve, that's outrageous!
Did she tell you and you can expect to hear anything? He said you know where I stood on the list by Tuesday Wednesday, Sir
getting to the top of the list is just the beginning. What it looks like to. Actually
help from the system. That's next time
on according to need
this chapter of according to need was produced by me, Katy mingle, with associate producer, Abbe, Madden and Managing editor Whitney Henry Lester Huge there.
to annul Leiva- Jamie Almonza, Dennis Cocaine, Alison, the Young, Regina Cannon, Jesse Chemin Ocean Newman and the Indian who all spent time talking to me about the list,
roman Mars. Is the executive producer of according to need in value
we'll editing from LISA, Pollack, Emmett Fitzgerald, Delaney Hall, Christopher Johnson, Joe Rosenberg and Roman Mars, Bryson BAR
this was our sound engineer fact: checking by any gains beautiful music by the beautiful Sean Rau, branding
design by much more dot io protocols that was our digital director additional support from so
clad, skirt, Vivian, lay and crisper Ebay, special things too.
but he saw Molina Cadena, Johannes Zorn and Chelsea Miller according to need is up
object of ninety nine percent, invisible, which is a founding proud member of Radio Tokyo from P R acts, a network of independent listener supported artist, owned podcast
Transcript generated on 2020-12-18.