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Cityscape: Volume 23 Number 2 | The Hispanic Housing Experience in the United States


The Hispanic Housing Experience in the United States

Volume 23 Number 2

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Factors Associated with Unsheltered Latinx Homelessness in Los Angeles County

Melissa Chinchilla
AltaMed Institute for Health Equity
Sonya Gabrielian
VA Greater Los Angeles and University of California Los Angeles

Nationally, approximately 211,293 persons experiencing homelessness (PEH) are unsheltered (i.e., live in a place not meant for human habitation, including sidewalks, cars, or abandoned buildings); 23 percent of these persons are Latinx (HUD, 2019). Unsheltered persons are highly vulnerable, with poor housing outcomes, high service needs, and low levels of treatment engagement. These characteristics parallel patterns seen among Latinxs experiencing homelessness, who are less likely than their peers to use shelters or other homeless services. Yet, research on Latinx homelessness is limited and has primarily focused on the role of social supports in avoiding the use of homeless services. Little is known about factors associated with the unsheltered status among Latinxs experiencing homelessness and the implications of these characteristics in tailoring services to meet the needs and vulnerabilities of this population.

The authors analyzed 2019 Los Angeles County homeless count data to identify the demographic, economic, and health characteristics of Latinx single adults and adults in families experiencing homelessness (n=12,086). The authors compared unsheltered Latinxs on age, gender, length of homelessness, income, and health characteristics with sheltered Latinx and other unsheltered ethnic/racial groups in Los Angeles County. The authors found that unsheltered Latinx PEH have vulnerabilities that are different (all findings are significant at p<.05) from both sheltered Latinxs and other unsheltered populations. Compared with sheltered Latinx, unsheltered Latinx were more likely to include adult males (72 percent/57 percent), to report alcohol (23 percent/5 percent) and drug use (26 percent/6 percent), and to have significantly lower rates of public benefits enrollment—including lower rates of Medicaid (21 percent/88 percent), Medicare (2 percent/6 percent), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (38 percent/96 percent). When compared with unsheltered non-Latinx African-American and non-Latinx White PEH, unsheltered Latinx PEH reported slightly higher rates of full-time employment (Latinx 3 percent; African-American 1 percent; White 1 percent), part-time employment (Latinx 5 percent; African-American 2 percent; White 2 percent), or active pursuit of employment while unemployed (Latinx 31 percent; African-American 26 percent; White 24 percent), but were less likely to report more than $200 in monthly income (Latinx 46 percent; African-American 62 percent; White 56 percent). The authors’ findings suggest the value of tailoring vocational and substance use disorder interventions to address the needs of unsheltered Latinxs. Additional research is needed to identify person- and contextual-level barriers to the receipt of public benefits to develop culturally responsive interventions for this population.

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