Based on the last point-in-time homelessness assessment conducted in 2020, it’s estimated that more than half a million Americans are experiencing homelessness.
With limited funding and restricted resources, continuums of care and local governments are often forced to prioritize which clients receive services first. Conducting vulnerability assessments helps providers triage service delivery by determining which clients face the highest risk of death, harm to self or others, incarceration, or crisis.
Communities can also use assessments to help weigh various demographic factors for especially vulnerable populations – such as age, dependents, veteran status, or race – in their risk assessment.
But what do vulnerability assessments measure, and how are they conducted?
In this article, we’ll explore how to optimize efficiency while conducting vulnerability assessments in your community:
- How are housing services vulnerability assessments conducted?
- Who can perform vulnerability assessments?
- When are vulnerability assessments conducted?
- What do vulnerability assessments measure?
- Case management software is the best vulnerability assessment tool
How are housing services vulnerability assessments conducted?
Rolled out for public use in 2010, the Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (SPDAT) framework helps communities promote housing stability while ensuring limited resources are fairly distributed. Systems of care and continuums of care commonly use these frameworks during coordinated entry assessments. The Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (SPDAT) helps front-line workers serving homeless clients prioritize service delivery to the people who need it most.
There are three updated versions of the SPDAT in use:
The Vulnerability Index – Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT) is another pre-screening tool that communities use to help allocate resources. In comparison to the SPDAT, the VI-SPDAT is shorter and can be used to quickly assess whether a client experiencing homelessness has a low, moderate, or high level of risk.
There are three updated versions of the VI-SPDAT in use:
- VI-SPDAT Version 2.0 for Individuals
- VI-SPDAT Version 2.0 for Families
- VI-SPDAT Version 1.0 for Youth
Who can perform vulnerability assessments?
Whereas homeless assistance workers need to complete specialized training and certification through OrgCode Consulting in order to perform SPDAT assessments, any front-line worker or volunteer can apply the VI-SPDAT Series framework. It’s also important to note that these vulnerability assessments are designed to prioritize care and triage service delivery – the SPDAT cannot help a case manager make a diagnosis or predict a client’s future risk.
When are vulnerability assessments conducted?
OrgCode Consulting recommends using the SPDAT at different intervals, including during intake to create a baseline, around the time of client move-in, 30 days after service delivery begins, and then roughly once per quarter while the client is receiving services. By performing these assessments throughout the course of a case plan, case managers can assess how a client is progressing over time.
What do vulnerability assessments measure?
The SPDAT framework is broken out into four key components: client wellness, risks, socialization and functioning, and housing. Clients will receive an overall risk score between 1 (low risk) and 100 (extremely high risk). These assessments play a critical role in determining a client’s individual strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to safety and housing stability. Case managers can build on a client’s strengths, and address their situation with a unique set of resources and services to help them reduce their overall SPDAT score.