We, who work in the field of homelessness, are increasingly hearing about diversion.
Diversion is a strategy that prevents homelessness by helping people, who find themselves in a housing crisis and are seeking shelter, preserve their current housing situation or make immediate alternative arrangements without them having to enter shelter or any other literal homelessness situation.
Utilizing a strong diversion approach shifts how we talk to people when we first encounter them.
Rather than asking, “What programs are you eligible to enter and who has a bed?” a strong diversion focused coordinated entry system asks, “What would resolve your current housing crisis?”
The shift seems subtle, but has significant consequences and places households generally in a stronger position to deal with their crisis. The conversation any of our service providers should have at the front doors of a coordinated entry system should be focused on the household’s strength. If people are safe where they are – in a motel, in a doubled-up situation with families or friends – let’s try to help them address the problems of income, resolve conflict with co-inhabitants, mediate, etc. Work on the steps to find alternative housing while they remain where they are.
There will still plenty of situations, unfortunately, that will lead to shelter stays. But whenever possible, we need to consider a strong diversion strategy.