The Time Seems Right: Let's Begin the End of the VI-SPDAT

Let's put the VI-SPDAT to rest…turn off the lights…bring it to an end.

Just not right away. Hear me out.

A pandemic can get a person to spend a lot of time in their own head when working from home. It has been a long time since I could think about the VI-SPDAT critically. And the more I think about it, the more I realize we can do better. I don't just mean OrgCode do better (we can). I mean we as a sector of passionate champions for ending homelessness can do better. And people experiencing homelessness deserve better.

Here are my ideas:

Let's create a tool or an approach framed through an equity lens. (Or if someone has already figured this out and it is working well, let's promote it!) I think we can open creation of a tool/approach up to one large collaborative process that will take a couple of years. I don't have all the ideas of how to do this, and that's a good thing. We should see a new tool/approach as co-created with different expertise and opinions. So, let me throw this out there: to all the VI-SPDAT supporters and to all the VI-SPDAT haters: who wants to work together on something new and better? Who at least wants to meet to discuss what this could look like? Even if OrgCode gets it kicked off and then turns it over to others, that is fine. We can co-lead or take a back seat or sit back and just watch it happen from afar. We have learned a lot (and have a lot of scars) that may be helpful, but I don't want to taint or interfere with a process either. If anyone is on-board with at least figuring out what this might look like, send me an email to express your interest. I will take responsibility for convening a structured online gathering (or several) to get the ball rolling.

Or maybe there is already a group doing everything outlined above, and I am just out of the loop. If you are, I think it's a great thing. And I want you to succeed.

In the meantime, we probably need to keep using the VI-SPDAT (hopefully the most recent version) as we transition.  This will likely last a year or two as something new is created. There are simply too many communities using the VI-SPDAT, and it is included in so many HMIS, and is woven into so many Coordinated Entry processes, that the system may come to a grinding halt if we flipped the "off switch" too fast. I am not suggesting we paralyze the system at the expense of creating and transitioning to a new tool/approach.

I don't have a funder for this idea. But we haven't had funders for the development of any of the SPDAT products, including the VI-SPDAT. What other firms call profit, we have generally reinvested in products and pro bono work. I am willing to pony up some OrgCode funding to help get this started. I am also volunteering OrgCode team time. Collectively, once all of us figure out governance and leadership and an approach, we can work together to find the necessary funding.

The SPDAT (not the VI-SPDAT) will remain. It is the baby and I continue to believe in it. So, for any community that has invested time and energy into using the full SPDAT, our support and work on it will continue. It is an imperfect work in progress, but it is far more aligned to OrgCode's values than the VI-SPDAT ever was.

My sincere thanks to every person and organization that helped make the VI-SPDAT what it is.

My apologies to any person or organization that I have offended along the way.

I think the VI-SPDAT has had a good ride. It, too, has always been an imperfect work in progress. Some of the critiques of it are bang-on. Others not so much. But Iam not going to promote it anymore, nor am I going to defend it anymore. Our first obligation has to be to people experiencing homelessness, not to maintaining a tool. We have more important things to do than debate or celebrate a tool. We have people to house. We have homelessness to end.

About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.


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