The program uses AI to help predict who is most likely to become homeless - and it's a first in the US, according to the county.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It's hard to escape the influence of artificial intelligence in our daily lives, but can AI help solve the homeless crisis in Los Angeles?
According to recent data, the number of people without a place to live in L.A. County now tops 75,000. Johari Bey used to be one of those people.
"I've been homeless and I didn't have help," she told Eyewitness News.
Bey eventually moved in with family members, but it didn't turn out well. Right as the 27-year-old teetered on the brink of leaving her home and possibly returning to the streets, she got a call from an L.A. County Homelessness Prevention caseworker.
They gave Bey an offer she couldn't refuse.
"Rental assistance, security deposits for a new apartment, fixing their car, purchasing basic needs for their home," said Dana Vanderford, who leads the L.A. County Homelessness Prevention Unit of Housing for Health.
Her job is to find people like Bey who are on the edge of homelessness and find them housing - and keep them housed.
"This program has given me at least over $2,000," said Bey.
That money plus her retail earnings was enough to afford a studio apartment in Koreatown.
But what are the odds that call from the county came right as Bey was close to becoming homeless again.
You guessed it. It was AI.
The foundation of this work is based on a predictive analytics tool created the California Policy Lab at UCLA (CPL).
According the county's website, they use data from various county systems and CPL helps predict which county service recipients are at the highest risk for homelessness.
Then, Vanderford's team reaches out to those people to connect them to homeless prevention and housing stabilization services.
"Everything from who enrolls in food assistance, to who's in the emergency department or who has treatment for substance use or public mental health services," said CPL Executive Director Janey Rountree. "Artificial intelligence is a really new and emerging field, and I think we're focused on how that type of science can really help people and help the county serve people who are experiencing homelessness."
The team's computers generate a list of several thousand people predicted to be on the cusp of falling into homelessness.
"If we can invest a few thousand dollars earlier on in people's lives rather than letting them fall in and trying to get them back into housing, it's a much more cost-effective strategy," said Vanderford.
L.A. County is the only agency in the U.S. using AI in this way to solve homelessness, according to Vanderford.
The program is being evaluated with official results due at the end of next year.
But for people like Bey, AI is A-OK.
"It was a big deal for me. I don't want to be on the streets. I don't want to stay in a tent, I don't want to do that."