How Are The Houseless Currently Being Assessed By Missoula Service Providers?

by Travis Mateer

Back in my day of service providing, the Missoula Coordinated Entry System (CES) used an assessment tool called the VI-SPDAT, a fun acronym to spit out to houseless individuals wanting to be assessed and entered into our grand service delivery system. What’s used now? Something called MAP, which I assure does NOT mean minor attracted person.

This assessment tool is provided by a company called Pathways Community Network Institute, so I clicked the link, downloaded the questionnaire, and now we’re going to take a look at how the houseless proliferating along the Clark Fork River, and in nearly every park, are being assessed by this assessment tool. Let’s begin.

Ok, in this first little part of MATCHING FOR APPROPRIATE PLACEMENT, health is the focus. Will a person’s potential disability supplemental income be identified? I don’t know, because we’re quickly on to assessing for the potential of domestic abuse.

The shelters that can temporarily house those fleeing domestic violence are generally VERY restrictive. For example, if a person’s abuser is NOT physically in Missoula, the person fleeing abuse may not be eligible to stay at a place like the YWCA shelter. Organizations can, and oftentimes MUST, put restrictive filters on in order to ensure limited resources are spent wisely. Are municipalities not able to act in a similar manner?

The assessment tools ends with 10 more questions. Here they are:

Before we get to the score sheet, let me point out some things I am NOT seeing. I am not seeing questions that assess HOW LONG a houseless person has been in Missoula, or anything that could determine their ability to SUSTAIN housing, like a local support system. Maybe that information isn’t important to Missoula service providers.

Now, here’s the scoring:

When I look at this assessment tool, what I see is a basic capability to determine whether or not someone is in crisis, thus in need of “crisis intervention”, and nothing more.

What I would like to see are questions like these:

Where did you last receive mail?
What kind of financial assistance do you receive?
Do you have to register as a violent or sexual offender?
Do you WANT housing?
Describe your social support network?

Is it unreasonable to want a better assessment tool in the midst of a homeless tent-bloom unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my 12 years working in the non-profit sector?

Yesterday my day began with a 911 call because a man beneath the Russell bridge was so fucked up, he couldn’t get his pants pulled up, something I implored him to do several times. He just sat there, in a chair, with his pants around his ankles, barely conscious. While on the phone with 911 dispatch, I was told about the non-emergency line. I thanked the woman, but insisted a welfare check be completed anyway.

Since our helpless leaders are looking to THE NATIONAL PROBLEM of drugs as a way to abdicate their own responsibilities locally, here’s a tweet from Seattle worth considering. That city is in serious trouble, as this attempt to scrape back some control clearly indicates:

If you appreciate the context and on-the-ground reporting I’m bringing to this issue, please consider supporting Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF), or making a donation at my about page.

Thanks for reading!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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