Shelters turn to math to help homeless

BOSTON — Lynn Shelter Association and other homeless prevention organizations are turning to mathematicians to help their clients.

Mathematica Policy Research teamed up with the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance (MHSA) to develop a system that MHSA says improves targeting of resources to the neediest and most vulnerable in the homeless population.

“Our study findings suggest MHSA’s triage and assessment tool is successfully attempting to allocate scarce resources by effectively identifying chronically homeless people who will be frequent users of emergency health services if they remain homeless,” said James Mabli, associate director at Mathematica.

Lynn Shelter houses 65 individuals and provides shelter for 64 families. Using the assessment tool, shelter employees prioritize placing individuals into housing as units become available. The tool identifies and targets homeless high utilizers of emergency services through a triage score.

“The Mathematica study confirmed our belief that this is an effective tool in triaging chronically homeless persons into housing,” said Joseph Finn, MHSA’s executive director. “We look forward to advocating for and perhaps creating additional housing opportunities to meet the needs of all those requiring permanent supportive housing.”

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