• Youth Homelessness
  • Volume 20, Number 3
  • Managing Editor: Mark D. Shroder
  • Associate Editor: Michelle P. Matuga
 

Linking Homelessness Vulnerability Assessments to Housing Placements and Outcomes for Youth

Eric Rice
University of Southern California

Monique Holguin
University of Southern California

Hsun-Ta Hsu
University of Missouri

Matthew Morton
Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago

Phebe Vayanos
University of Southern California

Milind Tambe
University of Southern California

Hau Chan
University of Southern California


Youth homelessness has reached a concerning level of prevalence in the United States. Many communities have attempted to address this problem by creating coordinated community responses, typically referred to as Coordinated Entry Systems (CES). In such systems, agencies within a community pool their housing resources in a centralized system. Youth seeking housing are first assessed for eligibility and vulnerability and then linked to appropriate housing resources. The most widely adopted tool for assessing youth vulnerability is the Transition Age Youth-Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (TAY-VI-SPDAT): Next Step Tool (NST) for homeless youth. To date, no evidence has been amassed to support the value of using this tool or its proposed scoring schematic to prioritize housing resources. Similarly, there is little evidence on the outcomes of youth whose placements are determined by the tool. This article presents the first comprehensive and rigorous evaluation of the connection between vulnerability scores, housing placements, and stability of housing outcomes using data from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) collected between 2015 and 2017 from 16 communities across the United States. The two primary aims are (1) to investigate the degree to which communities are using the tool’s recommendations when placing youth into housing programs, and (2) to examine how effectively NST scores distinguish between youth in greater need of formal housing interventions from youth who may be able to self-resolve or return to family successfully. High vulnerability scores at intake were associated with higher odds of continued homelessness without housing intervention, suggesting the tool performs well in predicting youth that need to be prioritized for housing services in the context of limited resources. The majority of low scoring youth appear to return home or self-resolve and remain stably exited from homelessness. Youth placed in permanent supportive housing (PSH) had low recorded returns to homelessness, regardless of their NST score. Youth with vulnerability scores up to 10 who were placed in rapid rehousing (RRH) also had low returns to homelessness, but success was much more variable for higher-scoring youth.


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