Update on VI-SPDAT: Progress and Equity


We have been getting a number of questions about the future of the VI-SPDAT, especially as it relates to when the next version is coming out, as well as matters of equity. Some of this results from a release by C4 that claims based upon the study of a small number of communities, that the VI-SPDAT favors white people over people of color. By way of update, and in response to concerns regarding equity:

• Thanks to C4 for lending their voice along with the 178 other entities that have provided feedback on how to improve the next version of the VI-SPDAT during our open comment period over the last year. Most of those comments were positive and requests for small changes.

• The volume of interest in the tool demonstrates how well-used the tools are, along with a desire shared by us to continuously improve the tools. Nonetheless, many communities - and C4 - continue to misunderstand the VI-SPDAT. It is NOT an assessment tool (the SPDAT is). The VI-SPDAT is a TRIAGE tool. Furthermore, the VI-SPDAT suggests that a person or family should be ASSESSED for a particular housing intervention, not that they should be matched to a particular housing intervention. Matching and prioritization should always encompass variables beyond the score of a tool.

• We believe that communities that play close attention to matters of equity are more likely to be making changes in their processes and approaches to housing vulnerable people, and appreciate that a scoring tool is only one part of a community’s approach to prioritize and house people. We agree with C4 and Building Changes that, "who is asking the assessment questions and the environment in which they are asked...factor into VI-SPDAT outcomes that show racial inequities."

• We encourage communities to continue to develop their coordinated entry approach in such a manner that it is sensitive and responsive to matters of racial equity, gender equity, age equity, trauma, and a strengths-based way of interpreting and using data to inform future services.

• As we move forward with future versions of the tool, we encourage more training this go around, and more concrete guidance on when and how to apply the tool. We hope this results in more accurate use of the tool aligned to how it was initially intended.

• At times we have seen variations in results from across the US and Canada as it relates to matters like age and race: in some communities these are not concerns at all, while in other communities these are cause for great concern. We would encourage communities where there are inequities to take an in-depth examination into all parts of their system that may be causing inequities, and learn from those communities where these inequities are not present.

• In the process of testing Version 3, we have engaged with a number of communities to track demographic data of the people with whom they completed the triage tool, and have encouraged diversity in age, gender and race in test respondents. In many of the test communities, more than half the people involved in testing the tool and providing feedback on the tool are people of color.

• As we have been developing Version 3 of the tool, we continue to get third-party vetting of the tool considering matters of equity and anti-oppression. We have also been getting direct input from diverse community leaders on how to improve the tool as it relates to matters of equity.

• In a short few weeks, the next version of the VI-SPDAT will be released, considering all of the feedback we have received over the past year. This will better meet the needs of communities throughout Canada and the United States based upon feedback received. While we make no claims of perfection in the tool, we are pleased by the passion and interests of so many groups to stay invested in the tool and try to make it better.

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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