Are You Housing-Vulnerable? Who Decides, With What Consequence?

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Here’s something that may come as a shock to supporters of a universal human right to adequate housing. In a certain large American city, when it comes to to the threat of homelessness, Whites are more vulnerable than Blacks.

OMG! Those poor, disadvantaged Whites. But wait a second, by labelling them most vulnerable, they go to the front of the line for available housing assistance! Is this instead some kind of prejudice against Black citizens?

Pretty much universally, with any assignment of human rights to the unhoused, an all-important objective is to most fairly serve all a community’s actual and potential unhoused citizens.

A community’s housing capability turns upon existing available housing, as well as whatever is under construction or development. Getting those resources to the ‘right’ people as they come online is an important task for any responsible bureaucracy.

That means ensuring that the most vulnerable unhoused (or potentially so) citizens are those served first in any steps to redress this ever-growing societal problem. Alas, this rule-making can be a back door to prejudice.

Los Angeles is one of America’s wealthiest cities in one of its wealthiest states (California). It is also home to arguably the greatest flood of people who are unhoused of the any city in the nation.

Los Angeles applies its bureaucratic magic to determine who needs housing most. And so we learn that White Angelenos are assessed to be more vulnerable than Black Angelenos.

Seem reasonable? More so, a little unlikely. Not even the city itself is happy with how it determines a hierarchy of people who are unhoused. Read more in The Markup: L.A. Is Changing How It Scores “Vulnerability” of Unhoused People

Congratulations to The Markup for raising questions about bias in the scoring system used decide who among the thousands of people who are homeless are given priority to move to housing. The results of The Markup’s investigation have been replicated in a study by researchers at the University of Southern California: Coordinated Entry System Triage Tool Research and Refinement