Making Diversion Work for You


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This is a modified PowerPoint presentation from the 2011 National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness that provides a basic overview of shelter diversion, how it works, and how it can benefit homeless assistance systems and the households they serve. This is meant to be used as a teaching tool and comes with slide notes so that individuals can present it to fellow providers or staff members.

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  • Hi! I will start with the basics, talk about system level considerations, and then drill down to the more programmatic stuff.
  • Assessment – Is this person able to be diverted? Ideally, assessment for prevention and/or diversion needs or assessed first when a household seeks homeless assistance. These assessment questions should be integrated as the first step of a coordinated assessment/entry process. Temporary Housing – temporary here means “temporary housing outside of shelter” – could be previous housing or other housing with a family, fried, co-worker, etc. The key is to find somewhere else the household can stay, even if for just a few days or weeks, while the case manager works with them to settle into a permanent housing situation. Services –Once a household has been deemed diversion eligible, a case manager or intake worker should work to determine what can be done to secure temporary housing for them outside of shelter. After temporary housing has been secured, the case manager should work with them to help them find a permanent housing situation.
  • Diversion shares some similarities with rapid re-housing and prevention, but also important differences, as described in the table above.
  • We’re not trying to keep people out that really need shelter – just trying to prevent people from having to enter at all if at all avoidable. In order for this to really work, we must provide services! Services needed will vary in length and intensity – may be very short, low intensity (e.g., one mediation session between household and a relative that could house them) or may mirror rapid re-housing needs. The point is that the household is getting services tailored to their permanent housing needs, even though they’re not entering shelter/the homeless assistance system.
  • Outcomes: By finding other options for households outside of shelter, we reduce the number of new entries into our homeless assistance system, one of the three key HEARTH outcomes. Quality of life: Families can receive services in a setting that may be far less stressful and disruptive than an emergency shelter. We serve families where they are rather than making them enter the system to receive valuable connections to services like rapid re-housing. Resources: Shelter diversion is ultimately a targeting strategy. By using it effectively, we make sure our shelter beds are reserved as a last resort measure for households that literally have nowhere else to go.
  • This is an example of how shelter diversion fits in with a coordinated assessment/entry process. The “front door” represents the assessment center(s)/intake locations the community has. The first questions that should be asked as part of the assessment process should focus on prevention and diversion possibilities. Based on the initial assessment done there, intake workers will refer to one of the three interventions in gold. For more on coordinated assessment, please see our toolkit on the subject: .
  • In this scenario, where all providers do their own assessment and intake, providers assess clients coming in for prevention/diversion needs and refer them to a provider/organization that can provide prevention/diversion services if they are eligible. Since HUD is now requiring ESG and CoC grantees to adopt a coordinated assessment approach, most communities will need to use the model in the previous slide (and we encourage that).
  • Some tips for successful diversion: Cater services: Think about a service plan as soon as you’ve assessed someone who is eligible for diversion. Map out what services they’ll need and in which settings. Make sure the services are focused on their barriers to permanent housing – do NOT use services to fix the household or correct all of their problems. Our goal here as service providers is to provide the services and connections to mainstream services that households need to get into permanent housing.
  • This is the order in which shelter diversion related services are rendered from initial contact of consumer until the conclusion of services. Step 1 is assessment for diversion eligibility, Step 2 will vary depending on the needs of the household. In some cases, much of Step 2 will be largely unnecessary.
  • You can add these to your current assessment tool or create a new one…either way, a common assessment tool is a huge asset, not just for diversion, but for your system in general. Answers to some of these questions should be used to shape the focus of services provided while the household is engaged with the diversion program. As long as the household has a safe option for temporary housing, diversion should be explored. Safety of the household is of the utmost importance.
  • Some families may need financial assistance to get into a temporary housing situation, or, once situated there, to make the move to an appropriate permanent one. Financial needs will likely be similar to what would be needed for prevention or rapid re-housing services. A potential list of financial needs is listed on this slide.
  • The case manager or service coordinator working with the household should focus on developing a permanent housing plan with the household. They may also need to mediate a dispute, help with housing search and location, or provide financial assistance. The focus through all service provision remains on helping the household get housed – nothing more, nothing less. Case managers should make referrals into the community for mainstream service provision when appropriate.
  • A lot of overlap here with rapid re-housing/prevention funds. TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ESG = Emergency Solutions Grant Local funds = could be County or City funds, Housing Trust funds Many diversion situations DON’T require funding – often times mediation of any conflict between the household that may be able to provide housing and your client and some help with housing planning is enough!
  • Use these measures to determine if shelter diversion has been a successful strategy. There should be a decrease in each of these three measures. Most successful shelter diversion programs successful divert from shelter between 20-30% of the households coming to them for assistance.
  • Other resources to examine, besides the ones included in the Prevention/Diversion Toolkit, include the resources on this slide.
  • Making Diversion Work for You

    1. 1. Making Shelter Diversion Work for YouNational Conference on Ending Family Homelessness Kimberly Walker Capacity Building Associate Updated 3/2012
    3. 3. How Diversion Differs From Other Interventions Consumer’s Housing Services Provided Intervention Used Situation (In All Interventions)AT IMMINENT RISK OF     LOSING HOUSING Housing Search PREVENTION(precariously housed and not Rental Subsidy   yet homeless) Other Financial Assistance Utility AssistanceREQUESTING SHELTER Case Management  (at the “front door” or another Mediation DIVERSION program/system entry point Connection to Mainstream seeking a place to stay) Resources Housing Search IN SHELTER Legal Services (homeless/in the homeless RAPID RE-HOUSING   assistance system)
    4. 4. It’s NOT…• Denying shelter to those who need it• Sending people away from access to services
    5. 5. Why Use It?• Improves outcomes: Reduces entries into homelessness• Improves quality of life: Helps families avoid stress of shelter life; allows organizations to serve families in a friendlier setting• Conserves resources: Preserve shelter beds as an “as-necessary” option
    6. 6. One Example: Coordinated EntryPrevention or Programmatic Diversion FRONT DOOR Referral(Back to original Intake (for those withhousing; friends or Assessment specific/intensive family) needs) Shelter Entry or Rapid Re-Housing
    7. 7. …and with no “front door” PROVIDER PROVIDER Diversion/PreventionPROVIDER Services PROVIDER PROVIDER
    8. 8. Best Practice: Program LevelBe creative about housing optionsThink through every available resource a person mighthave – previous housing, family, friends, co-workers,friends from religious institutions.Cater what is offered to the needs of thehouseholdNot all households will need subsidies – some may justneed mediation with a landlord or another tenant forexample. Make sure you are addressing immediatebarriers to permanent housing.
    9. 9. Diversion, Start to FinishSTEP 1AssessmentSTEP 2Conflict mediation (landlords, potential houser)Subsidies (rental, utility, etc.)Housing stability planningReferralsConnection to mainstream servicesSTEP 3Program ExitFollow Up
    10. 10. Key Assessment Questions• Where did you sleep last night?• What other housing options do you have for the next few days, weeks, months…? What issues might there be with this housing situation?• Is it possible/safe to stay in your current housing? What resources would you need to do that? (financial assistance, case management, mediation, transportation, etc.)• Are you fleeing a domestic violence situation?
    11. 11. Financial Assistance• Rental subsidy (short term)• Rental/utility arrears• Moving costs• Money to support houser (e.g., money forgroceries, rent, etc.)• Transportation to housing
    12. 12. Other Services Offered Through the In the Case Manager Community Housing Plan Employment Services Mediation BenefitsHousing Search/Location Substance Abuse/ Financial Assistance Mental Health Health Care
    13. 13. Diversion, Dollars and Cents Flexibility is key! TANF financial assistance, subsidized employment, case management ESG rental assistance, mediation, and services LOCAL FUNDS FAITH-BASED/BUSINESS
    14. 14. Evaluating Progress•Size of wait list•New entries into homelessness•Diverted families returning to shelter
    15. 15. Additional ResourcesGeneral InformationCreating a Plan for the Homelessness Prevention Fund Examples2010 Conference Workshop: Diversion and Housing Relocation Services Family Homelessness: Lessons from Communities