Diversion has become a critical part of our conversations on how to end homelessness. But what do we really mean when we talk about diversion? It seems that when we start talking about how to implement diversion as part of a best practice crisis response system to end homelessness, everyone has a different idea of what it means.
To make sure we are effectively using diversion as a best practice to meet the objective of reducing the number of people who become homeless, let’s start with what the word “diversion” means. According to the Cambridge American Dictionary, "diversion" is defined as “the act of causing something or someone to turn in a different direction.”
Each year, thousands of Americans transition from active duty military service to veteran status. But after fighting for our country, these men and women are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness. Though the reasons for this are varied, many veterans struggle to return to civilian life, placing them at increased risk of experiencing homelessness. On any given night, nearly 50,000 veterans are homeless.
In 2009, our federal government acknowledged the growing problem of veteran homelessness and proposed a solution. Then-Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki, in conjunction with President Barack Obama, established the audacious goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. We’re now more than halfway through the year, with only five months to go. So how are we doing?
I am so happy to welcome you to our national conference on ending homelessness. The board and staff of the Alliance are deeply gratified that you have joined us here. And we thank all of you, also, for what you do to end homelessness across the nation.
This has been a year with many challenges. The gap between those who have and those who do not is growing; and many who are poor feel that their opportunities to escape poverty are shrinking. There are tremendous and persistent racial disparities. The cost of housing is increasing, but incomes are not keeping pace.
These are the big picture problems, and we have our challenges on the homelessness side of things, as well. At the national level, funding is getting harder to come by. The work that you are doing – coordinated assessment and entry, rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, critical time intervention, housing first, trauma informed care – are more sophisticated and effective. But they are also harder, requiring different skill sets, different administrative infrastructures, and different types of accountability.
Clearly, there’s a growing recognition that employment is an important part of the solution to homelessness and a hunger for knowledge about what works, what funding is available, and how to deliver effective employment services.
Now is certainly an opportune time to renew the focus on employment: recent federal policy changes such as the passage of HEARTH Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) place an added emphasis on helping people experiencing homelessness succeed in the labor market and ensuring that employment services are accessible and effective. Moreover, the growth of the rapid re-housing strategy has brought attention to just how critical effective, specialized employment services are to keeping individuals and families employed and stably housed.
Anyone who has been to a conference knows that they tend to be frenetic: idea sharing, solution swapping and networking. Last month, I went to the 2015 Association of Gospel Rescue Missions’ (AGRM) convention in Seattle and my experience was just that: frenetic, and fruitful.
For those of you not familiar, Gospel Rescue Missions (GRMs) or Missions are faith-based organizations that work primarily with those experiencing homelessness by providing shelters, transitional housing, treatment programs, and outreach services. Missions are often differentiated from non-faith based organizations because of their faith-based approach to these services.