As I bring this series about best practices at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte (MSC) to a close, I decided to save diversion until the end for two reasons. First, it’s a relatively new, emerging best practice that MSC has been experimenting with for a couple of years. Second, through MSC’s strategic planning process we have decided to formally launch our diversion component in early 2015! So, what is diversion? Kim Walker at the National Alliance to End Homelessness summarized it succinctly in a post she wrote as diversion emerged in 2011. Kim laid out the following bullets and I’ve added some comments relative to MSC’s use of diversion:
- Diversion is defined by the point at which intervention occurs and the type of assistance a household [or person] is seeking – in other words, only use diversion when someone is at the shelter door asking for a place to sleep;
- Diversion reduces homelessness – by helping people determine alternatives, we’ll be able to divert many folks from ever staying in a homeless shelter;
- Diversion conserves resources – I’ve blogged about that before; only use resources when absolutely necessary and only in sufficient amount to get the job done; providing too little in the way of resources sets someone up to fail, while too much is a waste;
- It’s not for everyone, but everyone should be assessed for it – this is one of the reasons that MSC is a coordinated assessment center and provides staffing to complete assessments;
- Service coordination is crucial – it’s the third leg of MSC’s equation to end homelessness: income + housing + support, and I’ve previously written that it may be the most important piece of the puzzle;
- The ultimate goal is a return to permanent housing – again, at MSC this is a goal for every man the moment they set foot into our shelters.
I’m appreciative of the informative way Kim laid out these six bullets and I hope my added commentary gives you a clearer idea of what diversion is and why its a best practice adopted at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte. Look for more information as we prepare to roll out our diversion component in late February 2015. It’s one more way that MSC is fulfilling our mission to end homelessness for each man.
I hope you’ve found this latest series about best practices informative. Whether it’s diversion, rapid re-housing, medical respite, SOAR, or employment access, MSC is constantly looking for ways to better serve men experiencing homelessness in our community. Promoting these best practices is also a way MSC carries out our agency’s vision to be a catalyst for systemic change to end homelessness.