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Homeless Housed by Choice, Not Chance

When a homeless encampment was disbanded by police intervention in front of the Volusia County Services Building in downtown Daytona Beach, the Salvation Army accepted many of those displaced for temporary shelter, while others were sent to appropriate housing in the area and some opted to refuse the assistance and find shelter on their own. It wasn’t a hit or miss dispersion. The Salvation Army and others use a set of guidelines called Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (SPDAT) and its companion the Vulnerability Index- Service Prioritization and Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT). The working manual for the tool can be read by clicking the link below.

The HEARTH Act and federal regulations require communities to develop a mechanism for common assessment and coordinated access. The Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization and Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT), adopted by the Salvation Army here, is a street outreach tool currently in use in more than 100 communities. Rooted in leading medical research, the VI helps determine the chronicity and medical vulnerability of homeless individuals. The Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (SPDAT), developed by OrgCode Consulting, a Canadian firm operating worldwide, is an intake and case management tool in use in more than 70 communities.

The average community currently allocates housing resources on a first come-first served basis. Individuals and families take their place at the bottom of endless waiting lists, regardless of their chronicity, medical vulnerability, acuity, or ability to address their own housing instability. The result is often akin to an emergency room devoting its costliest resources to a common cold patient while leaving a late-arriving heart attack victim to fend for him or herself. By contrast, the VI-SPDAT allows communities to assess clients’ various health and social needs quickly and then match them to the most appropriate-- rather than the most intensive-- housing interventions available. In some cases, the VI-SPDAT may help make the case for Permanent Supportive Housing. In other cases, it may encourage practitioners to choose Rapid Rehousing or a simpler affordable housing intervention. Because the tool is rooted in exhaustive research and based on over 160 studies and scholarly articles, service providers can be sure that the recommended intervention is an appropriate path for the client in front of them. The VI-SPDAT takes the pressure off of service providers to make difficult, emotionally fraught decisions and reframes the moment of assistance as an opportunity to match each client with the best housing and service options for his or her individual needs. In an environment of increasingly limited resources, it also helps communities avoid “subsidy overkill” by targeting their most intensive supports toward those who research shows will not make effective use of a lesser subsidy.

Evaluation Manual

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