Improving Prioritization of Housing Services: Implementation of the Allegheny Housing Assessment

Allegheny County, like many communities across the country, does not have sufficient long-term supportive housing to serve every person or family meeting the criteria for homelessness. Although the County’s Continuum of Care (CoC) includes approximately 210 bridge housing beds, 940 rapid rehousing beds and 1810 supportive housing beds, the demand for housing is greater than the supply. To allocate available housing, the CoC’s coordinated entry system has depended upon a widely adopted but not locally validated actuarial tool that relies upon self-reported information. As part of an ongoing effort to improve decisions at key points in its systems, Allegheny County worked with local stakeholders, research partners (Auckland University of Technology) and data science ethicists (Eticas) to develop the Allegheny Housing Assessment (AHA).

The AHA is a decision support tool designed to help prioritize admissions to supportive housing services for individuals or families experiencing homelessness. The tool uses administrative data from Allegheny County’s data warehouse to predict the likelihood of three types of events occurring in a person’s life if they remain unhoused over the next 12 months: a mental health inpatient stay, a jail booking and frequent use (4 or more visits) of hospital emergency rooms.  These events serve as indicators of harm if a person remains unhoused.  Like the previous assessment tool, the AHA assigns a risk score that is used as part of the housing prioritization process, but it is far more accurate and equitable and doesn’t require the time or trauma associated with asking sensitive questions at the time of housing crisis.

Allegheny County and its partners will document the implementation of the AHA and report on the results; a solicitation will be issued for an independent evaluation beginning in 2021. These data will be used not just to better prioritize housing resources but to shed new light on the unmet need for housing for high-risk individuals.

Select from the following documents to learn more about the AHA tool: