The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for Mellana Taylor.

She had just been laid off from her job and was struggling to figure out how she was going to afford rent, pay bills and keep a roof over her head. But at first, she had no idea how the county got a hold of her until they told her.

What You Need To Know

  • UCLA researchers at the California Policy Lab are helping to identify residents who are at the greatest risk of losing their homes

  • Participants receive up to $4,000 or $6,000 to help with rent, utilities, and other expenses

  • Case managers typically work with them for four months, but it can be up to six

  • The program recently received an additional $14 million from the American Rescue Plan to expand and continue through 2024

“Since I had applied for like county help in the past, that’s how my name got in their database,” Taylor said.

“You don’t hear about programs that are being proactive and actually calling its potential clients," said Kourtni Gouché, a Los Angeles County caseworker with the newly created Homeless Prevention Unit. "You usually hear about long processes, wait times, paperwork and all of that."

The pilot program finds people such as Taylor using a predictive tool developed by UCLA researchers at the California Policy Lab. It pulls data from eight LA County agencies to help outreach workers find people at greatest risk of losing their homes, many facing tough decisions.

“Do I buy groceries for the week, or do I pay my utilities and buy just what I need to eat for today?” Gouché said.

Participants receive up to $4,000 or $6,000 in assistance to help with rent, utilities and everything in between to help them get their lives back together. Taylor was one of the early participants. She also got help with parking tickets and gas. 

“What if you wake up one morning and your car is no longer there because you didn’t pay for the tickets, registration, whatever, the car is gone now. How do you get to work? How do you pay your bills, things like that?” Gouché said.

Case managers typically work with them for four months, but it can be up to six. 

“We can help a client get furniture in their house.  We can help them get groceries.  We can help them pay off their credit card bills.  We can help them get clothing,” Gouché said.

But both Taylor and Gouché feel the intangibles can be just as valuable because they say housing stability goes beyond simply having a roof over your head. It’s about having a support system, a connection with someone and a guide.

“When I wasn’t working, I was kind of down and I kind of went drinking a little more than I usually do, so I had expressed to her, I feel like I need some substance abuse help,” Taylor said.

“One of the biggest pieces or the recipe to our program working is the trust of our clients because if they don’t trust us, we don’t have a program,” Gouché said.

Gouché also connected Taylor with a temp agency so she could get back to work. Now, Taylor is in school to become a medical coder and biller.

“It’s cool because it definitely helped me not to just give up,” she said.

And she’s got her confidence back.