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Diversion

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.  

Jobs

A key ingredient to our success at Men’s Shelter of Charlotte (MSC) is helping men obtain or increase their income.  While many of our men are eligible for benefits – social security income, veteran’s benefits, and food stamps to name a few – most gain their income from employment.  A lot of our men have completed job training and readiness programs.  Many have been connected to Goodwill and Vocational Rehabilitation.  But the key to increasing a man’s income through employment is actual access to jobs.

A year or so ago, MSC launched an effort to help more of our men find actual jobs.  We started with an employment specialist on staff but quickly realized that there needed to be as much emphasis on employers as there was on the men.  So, this year we created an Employment Partnerships Coordinator position.  Corey’s job is to work with employers to let them know about the skill sets our men possess, which are often just what employers are seeking.  MSC is not asking employers to give men jobs.  We’re only asking for access.  In other words, we ask employers to consider our men in their hiring processes by giving them a chance to interview and then get (or not) the job on their own merit.  Once employers understand more about the experience of homelessness and how MSC provides support to overcome this experience, they become very interested in providing access.  More than once, the employer has also become part of the man’s support system, another necessary piece in keeping someone from becoming homeless again.

History is such an excellent teacher.  After years of witnessing our men struggle to gain employment, we noticed that many were following the same steps over and over without success.  By taking the time to learn from our past experiences, MSC learned that the most important step in finding a job is for there to be an actual job to obtain!

If you’re an employer interested in hiring hard workers who are motivated, please consider MSC.  You can reach Corey Hall, MSC’s Employment Partnerships Coordinator at Corey.Hall@MensShelterofCharlotte.org or 704.334.3187 x 153.

Morgan’s Shoes Fits 200 Men for New Shoes

Shoe Give away and fittingHundreds of men received new shoes thanks to a generous donation from a local business.  

Morgan’s Shoes and Bootery in Gastonia distributed dozens of works boots and casual shoes to men who live at the Tryon and Statesville Avenue shelters.

The owner, Doug Morgan and seven of his associates fitted the men.  They were then able to choose from several styles in their size and also received a new pair of socks. 

Morgan placed a special order for the shoes.   He made sure to get quality boots that will keep their feet warm all winter.  “It’s not leftovers.  You want to give a gift worth giving,” Morgan said. 

One man who is searching for a job said the gift gave him encouragement to keep looking and to keep his head up.  

Morgan fitting man for shoes“God has blessed us beyond belief.  We are just a conduit – he uses us to pass it on and bless others,” Morgan said. 

It’s the fourth year for the shoe giveaway and Morgan plans to continue the tradition next year.

 

Rapid Re-Housing is a Best Practice

Several years ago the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte (MSC) made the decision to focus intently on getting men out of the shelter and into places of their own.  We called it Continuing Care but what we were beginning to do is what is now commonly referred to as Rapid Re-Housing. The gist is to identify ways to move people into housing as quickly as possible to shorten their stay in emergency shelter. 

Today MSC’s rapid re-housing approach includes using volunteers to help men begin preparing for their move through our Housing and Employment Resource Center.  It takes partners like Crisis Assistance Ministry to obtain furniture and moving assistance.  It takes resources including government funding to provide rental subsidies.  It takes landlords who are willing to work with our clients.  But, most importantly, it takes the determination of our men who really do want to move out of the shelter and the creativity of our case management staff to find ways to make it work. 

To learn more about MSC’s impact by using best practices including rapid re-housing, check out our Impact Report

To learn move about Rapid Re-Housing visit the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  I especially encourage you to read their blog posting “Rapid Re-Housing is not an Anti-Poverty Program” (October 17, 2014).  It’ll make you think!

Former Clients Receive Turkey Dinners

The Charlotte Knights helped 25 former guests have a brighter holiday. 

On Tuesday, Knights staff delivered frozen turkeys and stuffing to the shelter – but it didn’t stay there for long.  The Thanksgiving meals went to former clients who now live on their own.

“It means everything.  Thanksgiving is about family,” said recipient Mike Wilson.  Wilson moved into his own apartment about 6 months ago and was thankful to get a call from his case manager about the turkeys.

The donation was a great opportunity for us to follow-up with the clients who have moved out and celebrate their successes over the last year.  From July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014, 497 men moved into more appropriate housing.

Homer’s Turkey Drive also delivered turkeys to First Baptist Church, Urban Ministries and Hospitality House of Charlotte.

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