Encourages families to generate creative ideas and identify realistic options for becoming housed within a goal of 30 days.

Mother and son

Established in other parts of the country as a homeless prevention strategy, Diversion is being used successfully in Washington state to help families exit homelessness.

More than half of the families that participated in our Diversion pilot in Pierce County were able to obtain safe housing through Diversion. Among those families, most secured a place of their own. The median amount of time it took those families to become housed was 36 days and the vast majority did not return to homelessness within a year.

Considered a “light touch” approach, Diversion is a process, not a program. It differs from homeless interventions that require intensive case management and sizable system resources. As a result, Diversion costs less and takes less time to get families successfully housed, freeing up resources that can be invested to help more families in need.

The Diversion process takes place during a family’s initial contact with the homeless response system—either at Coordinated Entry or at the front door of an emergency shelter. A Diversion-trained staff member initiates an exploratory conversation with the family to brainstorm practical solutions for moving from homeless to housed in a hurry . 

Families are prompted to identify safe housing options based on their own available resources, not those of the homeless response system. To help ease the transition out of homelessness, the system may offer families a flexible combination of short-term services and one-time financial assistance. 

Resources from the Building Changes library: