Wednesday, November 4 2015

A family’s urgent housing crisis gets resolved swiftly

Diversion is a "front door" strategy that offers homeless families a flexible combination of financial assistance, housing search, mediation and creative problem solving with the goal of quickly moving into stable housing.

Mother and childEight months pregnant and leading her toddler son by the hand, a young woman carrying an uneasy stride entered a Seattle homeless shelter for mothers and children. Though welcomed warmly, she felt forlorn. “No one wants to admit they are homeless,” she said.

She and her boyfriend had moved from the Tri-Cities to Seattle in search of opportunities. Instead, they were scammed out of money, fell behind on rent and got evicted. As the boyfriend sacked out on an acquaintance’s sofa, the young mother dreaded the idea of raising their second child inside a shelter.

The couple was referred to Melissa Espinoza, a diversion specialist with Neighborhood House, a Building Changes grant recipient. Together, they determined what the couple needed most to put an end to their homeless situation: First and last month’s rent and security deposit for a new apartment.

Before diversion, their shelter stay would have been weeks, months, maybe a year.

—Tanner Phillips, housing stability manager, Neighborhood House

Within a compulsory 30-day turnaround, Espinoza carried out the couple’s wishes by helping them secure a two-bedroom place in a market-rate fourplex in Auburn, using diversion funds to cover move-in costs. The landlord, who had leased before to Espinoza’s clients, trusted her enough to look beyond the couple’s past eviction. 

Mother and toddler checked out of the shelter after only a week. Soon after, the reunited couple celebrated the birth of their new daughter, free of the stresses of being homeless.

As part of diversion services, Neighborhood House also helped the couple enroll in job-training classes so they can become more employable, thus enhancing the chances for the family to stay housed—now and into the future.

 “Our spirits have been lifted and we see the sunlight again,” the young mother said. 

Diversion Works

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