Creating a Successful Diversion Program for Families

August 16, 2011  |  Publications


Diversion is a strategy that prevents homelessness for people seeking shelter by helping them identify immediate alternate housing arrangements and, if necessary, connecting them with services and financial assistance to help them return to permanent housing. Diversion programs can reduce the number of families becoming homeless, the demand for shelter beds, and the size of program wait lists. Diversion programs can also help communities achieve better outcomes and be more competitive when applying for federal funding. This paper will describe how communities can begin diverting families from entering their homeless assistance systems.

Distinguishing Diversion from Other Interventions

The services families are provided with when being diverted are services that caseworkers in most poverty and homeless assistance organizations are already trained and funded to deliver. They include:

  • Provision of financial, utility, and/or rental assistance; o short-term case management;
  • Conflict mediation;
  • Connection to mainstream services (services that come from agencies outside of the homeless assistance system, such as welfare agencies) and/or benefits; and
  • Housing search.

The main difference between diversion and other permanent housing-focused interventions centers on the point at which intervention occurs, as Table 1 below shows. Prevention targets people at imminent risk of homelessness, diversion targets people as they are applying for entry into shelter, and rapid re-housing targets people who are already homeless.

Consumer’s Housing Situation
Intervention Used
Services Provided (In All Interventions)
At imminent risk of losing housing (precariously housed and not yet homeless) Prevention Housing Search
Rental Subsidy
Other Financial Assistance
Utility Assistance
Case Management
Connection to Mainstream
Legal Services
Requesting housing (at the “front door” or another program/system entry point seeking a place to stay) Diversion
In shelter (homeless/in the homeless assistance system) Rapid re-housing