The Best Vulnerability Assessment Tool

October 12, 2022

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? 

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: 

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.

What Does the SPDAT Vulnerability Assessment Measure?

Here is a sample of criteria that the assessment evaluates with a series of questions for the client. Each sub-category is ranked from 0 (Low Risk) to 4 (High Risk) based on client responses and professional evaluation.

Wellness

Mental Health, Wellness, Cognitive Functioning
Physical Health
Medical Conditions
Medication Use
Substance Use
Prior Abuse, Trauma

Risks

Risk of Harm to Self or Others
History of Crisis Services Use
Risk-Taking Behaviors or Situations
Prior Use of Emergency Services
Legal Involvement
Criminal Record

Socialization and Functioning

Personal Financial Management
Social Relationships and Community Support
Self-Care and Daily Living Skills
Meaningful Daily Activities
Educational Attainment
Transportation

Housing Security

History of Permanent Housing
Prior Incidence(s) of Homelessness
Prior Evictions

Case management software is the best vulnerability assessment tool.

Front-line workers performing intake and vulnerability assessments must work efficiently because many of their clients require urgent assistance. Case management software provides the ultimate tool for conducting vulnerability assessments quickly and securely. 

Many systems of care or continuums of care share some level of access to the same case management platform, allowing them to update client data from across a collection of allied agencies, nonprofits, healthcare networks, and governments. This helps reduce duplicate client records, maintains data accuracy, minimizes manual entry errors, and enables case managers to gain a full picture of a client’s progress over the course of a care plan.

Case management software, such as CaseWorthy, offers numerous benefits to organizations serving clients experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness:

  • Custom Intakes: With CaseWorthy Case Management Software, your organizations can create intake forms based on commonly used templates – or you can easily configure a custom form from scratch. Industry-standard assessments, such as the VI-SPDAT, are already built into CaseWorthy.
  • Continuum of Care Customizations: Continuums of care use CaseWorthy because it’s easily customizable. Each organization in the continuum uses custom intake forms based on its own protocols and services while sharing that information securely and in real time with partner agencies. 
  • Simple Workflow Management: As intakes are filled out, the user can rely on workflows to make data entry faster and easier. For example, workflows can be configured to trigger certain actions or prompts based on how a client scores on your vulnerability assessment.
  • Automated Reminders: Easily schedule reminders and team workflows to follow up with clients as needed.
  • Centralized Cloud-Based Database: Initial intakes can be accessed by case managers and service providers from anywhere on any internet-powered device. This reduces the need for clients to tell their stories multiple times and allows service providers to provide comprehensive notes with ease. 
  • Built-In Reporting: With reports, nonprofits can examine data over time to identify trends that will allow for improved program execution. Plus, nonprofits can present this data to grantors and leadership to demonstrate proof of impact. Related Content: “Essentials of an Effective Nonprofit Impact Report”
  • Location-Based Referral Network Integration: No one should be turned away from the services they need just because an organization can’t offer them in-house. With CaseWorthy’s referral network, organizations can quickly identify convenient referral service providers based on vulnerability assessment responses.

CaseWorthy’s case management software offers all of the above housing services special features – and more!

CaseWorthy supports complex case management by tracking individual clients and the services they receive through a continuum of care. With CaseWorthy, you can go beyond just processing data. You can facilitate care for your clients and every interaction can be logged and tracked so you can continue to refine your programs.