Invisible intersectionality in measuring vulnerability among individuals experiencing homelessness – critically appraising the VI-SPDAT

This study applies an intersectional analysis to explore racial and gender differences in a widely used measure of vulnerability while homeless, the VI-SPDAT, among a large community sample. The study is particularly important given that vulnerability assessments are used to triage housing decisions for individuals experiencing homelessness. Based on the high risk for trauma among women lacking permanent shelter, and the fact that persons who are Black experience homelessness at a disproportionate rate, it was hypothesized that Black women would score most vulnerable. Data were analyzed using bivariate tests and a moderated path analysis. White women scored consistently higher on vulnerability compared to all men and Black women, despite both Black and White women reporting similarly higher odds of experiencing homelessness due to a history of trauma and abuse. Being homeless due to trauma and being White directly and significantly predicted higher vulnerability scores. Results suggest evidence of racial bias in the VI-SPDAT, which is particularly problematic for Black women, for whom potential measurement bias could mask the effects of trauma. In consequence, Black women experiencing homelessness may be at risk of receiving delayed housing within an already highly oppressed situation.

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Journal of Social Distress and Homelessness