People of color are overrepresented among people who are homeless. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds Continuums of Care (local planning bodies) to support people and families experiencing homelessness. However, there is not enough housing or funding allocated to cover the needs of all people and families experiencing homelessness. So, HUD requires Continuums of Care to assess and prioritize the needs of individuals and families to determine how to use limited resources.
Homeless services providers and other local stakeholders have voiced concerns that the assessments used are not equitable and lead to the prioritization of White people for housing. In partnership with Building Changes and four Continuums of Care, C4 Innovations studied possible racial inequities in these assessments.
Study findings include:
- On average, Black, Indigenous, and people of color are prioritized lower than their White counterparts.
- White individuals are prioritized higher for Permanent Supportive Housing resources.
- Many of the questions asked by a commonly used assessment tool (VI-SPDAT) are tilted toward capturing vulnerabilities that White people experience.
The study concludes there is a need to change assessment and prioritization processes. It makes recommendations for next steps at the local and national/policy levels as well as additional research needed. Some of the recommendations include:
- Communities should use existing tools such as HUD COC Racial Equity Analysis Tool to identify populations disproportionately represented in their homeless system, assess which factors contribute to inequities, and take steps to address these factors, including looking into different tools and/or methods for prioritization.
- Communities should ensure that homeless service providers and program administrators are trained in racial equity frameworks and practice, cultural humility/sensitivity, and trauma-informed practice.