As you may already know, the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT (and variations related thereto) on the most widely used assessment tools in homeless services. They also meet all of HUD’s expectations for coordinated entry, if you have read what HUD has recently shared. Let me walk you through it.
HUD says the assessment tool should be phased and situationally applied. If you have attended any training on the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT, you know the situations in which the tools should be applied, when they should be avoided, how to triage, and how to assess further.
HUD says the assessment tools should not result in a homeless household having to tell their story over and over again. We totally agree. There is nothing trauma-informed about a homeless person or family having to re-live their homeless story over and over again. The assessment should follow the person. If you are providing service and assessment using the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT, you know that one of the fundamental aspects of the tools is that the assessment follows the person and is shared across providers.
HUD says the assessment tools should only capture necessary information, and that the information collected should be based upon evidence. The VI-SPDAT and SPDAT rely on almost 300 peer reviewed published pieces of literature, government reports that have a sound methodology, rigorous testing, and a range of data points. They are intended to result in informed, objective understanding of current vulnerability and future risks to housing instability.
HUD says people being surveyed should have the autonomy to refuse to answer questions. Not only does the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT rely upon informed consent to complete, the opening script for the VI-SPDAT and the structure of the questions are clear that participants can skip or refuse any question they do not wish to answer.
HUD says the tools should be person-centered and help inform consumer choices. We totally agree and are frustrated when any community uses the tools incorrectly. The VI-SPDAT and SPDAT provide data. They help inform decision-making. They do NOT make decisions. They do NOT force people into one type of housing or program.
HUD says assessment tools should be culturally competent. Almost 900 different households have been directly involved in the creation of the tools, incorporating a broad range of races and ethnicities. The tools have also considered and involved a range of different experiences as it relates to gender identification, sexual preference, citizenship status, etc.
HUD says the tools should be user-friendly and capable of being applied by non-clinical staff. Both the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT have been created so that non-clinical staff can be used. And because so much of the language of the tools has been informed directly by people experiencing homelessness, the words used and results are intended to be user friendly to program participants.
HUD says assessment tools should provide meaningful recommendations and avoid long waiting lists. The VI-SPDAT and SPDAT recommend the type of housing and support intervention that should be considered. These tools do NOT make decisions, they provide decision assistance (it’s even in the name of the tools!). That decision assistance is data for recommendations and consideration. We also, as anyone knows that attends VI-SPDAT or SPDAT training, are against assessment for assessment sake. Action should follow.
HUD says the tools should be sensitive to persons with lived experience. How is this reflected in the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT? As previously mentioned, people with lived experience have had a direct voice in the creation of the tools. They have also been informed by a broad range of experts to ensure sensitivity to lived experience. Finally, experts in trauma and abuse were retained to review the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT, and inform the components on Trauma and Abuse to help decrease the likelihood of anyone being retraumatized through the experience of being assessed.