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Cityscape: Volume 23 Number 2 | The Rental Assistance Demonstration | The Hispanic Housing Experience in the United States


Double Issue: The Rental Assistance Demonstration | The Hispanic Housing Experience in the United States

Volume 23 Number 2

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Associations Between the Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool and Returns to Homelessness Among Single Adults in the United States

Laura Petry
Chyna Hill
Phebe Vayanos
Eric Rice
University of Southern California

Hsun-Ta Hsu
University of Missouri

Matthew Morton
Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago

Single adults ages 25 and older represent the largest group of individuals experiencing homelessness in the United States. In a concerted effort to address the complex needs of this population, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities receiving federal funds for homeless services to implement a coordinated entry system. As local supplies of affordable and subsidized housing frequently fail to meet the overwhelming levels of need, communities triage individuals experiencing homelessness to allocate limited housing resources. The Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT) is commonly used to accomplish this task.

Using Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data collected from 16 communities across the United States between 2015 and 2018, this article presents the first comprehensive assessment of the extent to which VI-SPDAT is associated with returning to homelessness less than 1 year following a housing exit to either permanent supportive housing (PSH), rapid re-housing (RRH), family, or self-resolve. Key findings include: (1) communities appear to follow VI-SPDAT scoring guidelines to match individuals to housing interventions based on level of vulnerability; (2) most single adults served by coordinated entry systems who exit homelessness remain out of the homeless services system for at least 365 days; (3) individuals whose VI-SPDAT score was 8 or higher (making them eligible for PSH) but who were ultimately placed in RRH returned to homelessness at rates three times higher than their counterparts exiting to PSH; (4) returning to homelessness is positively correlated with VI-SPDAT scores regardless of housing type, suggesting that individuals with high vulnerability scores face an overall higher risk of returning to homelessness; (5) disparities in housing outcomes observed among indigenous populations signal the need for more culturally inclusive studies of marginalized groups served by coordinated entry; and (6) planning personal activities beyond survival may decrease an individual’s odds of returning to homelessness while trauma or abuse survivors face a greater risk of experiencing recurrent homelessness.

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