With the annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count coming up on Feb. 23, LA County Supervisors are already looking ahead to how data collection can be enhanced in future years’ counts.

The Board voted, 5-0 last month, to request additional data that will help inform County service providers about the intersection between homelessness the involvement in the legal/carceral system — what the County refers to as “justice-involvement.”

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), in collaboration with LA County’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), will be tasked with collecting and publishing an annual data summary on “[justice] system involvement among unsheltered people experiencing homelessness.” The data was to be presented on public-facing dashboards.

With focus on what Supervisors call a “Care First, Jails Last” vision, the board voted to collect annual data on justice-involvement in the county’s unhoused population.

“We need to continue growing our understanding of the overlap between justice-involvement and homelessness,” the text of the motion stated. “Often, housing and homelessness resources are inaccessible to individuals with justice involvement. While there are many justice-involved individuals who are prioritized for services based on behavioral health needs, there are many who may not have immediate access to housing resources upon being released from incarceration. Housing can be a critical resource for preventing recidivism, yet at times, housing provided to formerly incarcerated individuals is found outside of the County’s formal homelessness system.”

The survey will be modeled after a 2019 report prepared by LAHSA.

“To better understand the links between justice involvement and homelessness and write policy decisions that can reduce the number of homeless and incarcerated people in LA County, your county should review justice data from the homeless count annually, not just as a one-time data sheet from two years ago,” Supervisor Hilda Solis, who sponsored the motion, said. “This population, as you know, continues to change and we should be getting the right information at the appropriate time.”

In addition to publishing annual data, LAHSA was asked to “ensure that LAHSA-contracted statistical consultants engage County justice partners, providers and organizations … that are working at the nexus of justice-involvement and homelessness to ensure the Homeless Count survey captures the most useful data regarding system-involved people experiencing homelessness.”

LAHSA and the CIO were also asked to report back 60 days following the Jan. 25 meeting with information on “the feasibility of including [justice] system involvement as a category in the regional data summaries (i.e. supervisorial district and SPA summaries) published after the annual Homeless Count.”

Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who represents Santa Monica, co-authored the motion. Kuehl said she was especially concerned about how many women who are incarcerated go on to become homeless.

“I think we’ve all known [for] a long time about the intersection between the justice and homeless systems, but we have never had enough real information to make policy decisions that can best support the population that exists at this intersection,” Kuehl said. “This motion asks to improve data collection, analysis and dissemination, so we can better understand the frequency of the overlap and pinpoint current knowledge and service gaps in each of our Districts and across the County.”