For decades, homeless agencies have provided services on a first-come, first-served basis. Those able to navigate a confusing social-service system, schedule and travel to appointments, understand the requirements to qualify for various available programs, and keep their documents in a safe place received the lion’s share of available assistance. Those with the most pressing needs, however, had a much more difficult time accessing services.
In August 2016, GRACE Marketplace became the first provider in North Central Florida to use the VI-SPDAT, a "supertool" that combines the Vulnerability Index and Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tools to help agencies achieve better outcomes in ending homelessness.
These tools help identify who should be recommended for housing and support interventions and are used in more than 100 communities. Based on a wide body of social science research and extensive field testing, the tools help service providers allocate resources in a logical, targeted, and equitable way.
We use both the VI-SPDAT and the SPDAT to evaluate each guest at intake and identify the best way to help them through a variety of programs:
1. Permanent Supportive Housing is long-term, permanent housing with ongoing access to the services and case management needed to make sure a person stays housed once they’re off the streets. This is the appropriate intervention for the people with the highest vulnerability – whose physical, mental, or substance-related health problems make them the most likely to die on the street if they’re not helped immediately.
2. Rapid Re-Housing is an evidence-based best practice targeting individuals and families with moderate health, mental health, and/or behavioral health issues who are likely to achieve housing stability quickly through a medium or short-term rent subsidy and access to support services.
3. Limited Assistance is available for individuals or families who do not require intensive support but still benefit from access to shelter and other services for a short period of time. Research shows that people on the low end of the vulnerability scale are likely to resolve their homelessness on their own when provided with limited assistance, including resources to help with employment, affordable housing, and a facility like GRACE Marketplace where they can have a meal and a shower while they look for housing.