San Diego Sails with MIT to Anchor Elderly Against Homelessness Tide

San Diego Sails with MIT to Anchor Elderly Against Homelessness TideSource: San Diego County
Roma Chang
Published on November 29, 2023

In a bold move to combat the dire specter of homelessness among the elderly, the County of San Diego is hitching its wagon to the brainpower of MIT's globally acclaimed research center. This partnership with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT, also known as J-PAL North America, aims to shine the analytical spotlight on the county’s Shallow Rental Subsidy Program, the program that throws a financial lifeline by providing a monthly subsidy of $500 to rent-burdened, low-income seniors on the brink of homelessness, as reported by County News Center.

The head honcho of the county’s Office of Evaluation, Performance, and Analytics (OEPA), Ricardo Basurto-Dávila, is all keyed up about delving deeper into data to distill the efficacy of their strategies. "We’re excited to partner with J-PAL," he said in a buzz of anticipation. "This evaluation will help us understand if senior incentives work, if they keep people housed, and give us data about how to move forward," a foresight invested in not merely tracking the saved but also measuring the efficacy and course of the program.

Approved by the Board of Supervisors in the bygone year of 2022 and implemented by the Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities, this subsidy plan is more than mere interim relief; it carries the hope of 18 months of stability, directly disbursed to the landlords of those lucky enough to make the cut from a pool of qualified applicants via a lottery of chance.

Fiercely analytical in its approach, the randomized study sanctioned by the county will pit the fortunate recipients against their less lucky counterparts, who did not feel the warmth of the subsidy's embrace; in doing so, "This comparison gives us more confidence that the results of the study will reflect the actual impact of the program," Basurto-Dávila pointed out, a move that's as much about number-crunching as it is about humanizing metrics.

Founded in 2021, the OEPA represents San Diego’s commitment to wielding the tools of modern analytics, parsing through the vast expanse of collected data to glean insights that could usher in real change, especially within areas that matter the most: homelessness, mental health, equity, and racial justice.