The Power of a Tool

Before the conference in DC for the National Alliance to End Homelessness, I reached out to an HMIS administrator that I trust to ask him about the impact coordinated access and common assessment has had in his community. I am going to protect the identity of his community so that they are not bombarded with requests about what/when/how, but his response is overwhelming to me (and his email back to me makes up the rest of this blog):

For assessments, 183 staff from 14 different agencies in [NAME OF COMMUNITY] have screened more than 1,300 individuals since August 2013 with the VI-SPDAT, 100% of which have been recorded (from day one) in our HMIS. It’s worthy of note that the vast majority of the 14 agencies using this de-centralized “no wrong door” approach are not The [COC funded] or DHS-funded either. It’s not about a funding mandate, it’s about providers being energized by a tool that they repeatedly describe as empowering their staff to “finally know what to do” – meaning knowing what intervention to recommend, versus “this is what we have available, regardless of whether you need it, so do you want that? If not, you get nothing.”

We’ve used that data to better target services: [our community] has completed three targeted 100 day initiatives. The first two were for veterans only, and our third (and current) 100 initiative is for all single individuals experiencing homelessness. In each of our three initiatives, we have ended homelessness for over 200 individuals:

  • 207 veterans were housed (96 of which were experiencing chronic homelessness) from August 9, 2013 to November 30, 2013
  • 202 veterans were housed (108 of which were experiencing chronic homelessness) from December 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014
  • 202+ single individuals were housed from May 24, 2014 to now (including 121 veterans)

Also worthy of note, as of this last week, every person who scored 13 or higher has been assigned a housing navigator. Our providers meet every week and begin our meeting by pulling our universal registry of VI-SPDAT results publicly, and starting with the highest score moving downwards, we send referrals for every permanent supportive housing or rapid rehousing unit that becomes available within the city. 100% transparent, and really, really energizing.

Lastly, we’re using this data to advocate for increased resources. Using the strong foundation of evidence that VI-SPDAT and SPDAT provide, our community has advocated for funding to move people from our registry (and the streets) into permanent housing (either permanent supportive or rapid rehousing).

  • $900,000 in local rapid rehousing funding for non-veterans in FY2014
  • $4.7 million in local permanent supportive housing for veterans (we have a lot of rapid rehousing/SSVF but not enough PSH for veterans. VI-SPDAT gave us the data to say “this is how much we need” to funders.)
  • $1.5 million expansion in local rapid rehousing funding for non-veterans in FY2015, because the original $900K wasn’t enough.

Thank you for making this possible. I am deeply indebted to you for your amazing tools. They are making a difference for our community in ways I never dreamed would be actually possible.

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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