Diversion is a housing first, person-centered, and strengths-based approach to help households identify the choices and solutions to end their homeless experience with limited interaction with the crisis response system. Diversion is explored with households accessing the Seattle/King County crisis response system who are experiencing literal homelessness or fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence without a safe housing option. It assists households to quickly secure permanent or temporary housing by encouraging creative and cost-effective solutions that meet their unique needs. It is a short-term intervention focused on identifying immediate, safe housing arrangements, often utilizing conflict resolution and mediation skills to reconnect people to their support systems. Diversion offers flexible services that may be coupled with minimal financial assistance when needed.
Homelessness disproportionately impacts communities of color, and the Seattle/King County Continuum of Care (CoC) has made a commitment to advancing racial equity in its shelter and housing outcomes. Diversion has been proven to be an effective and efficient approach nationally for resolving homelessness and may also help to advance racial equity. King County data suggests that Black/African American households utilize diversion at a higher rate than their overall representation in the homeless population in King County. This data indicates that efforts to expand diversion may impact disproportionality by connecting Black/African American households to permanent housing without a prolonged experience of homelessness and involvement in the homeless system.
This unique approach engages households early in their housing crisis. A staff member trained in the techniques of diversion initiates an exploratory conversation to brainstorm practical solutions for households to resolve their homelessness quickly and safely. Staff help households see beyond their current crisis by encouraging them to generate creative ideas and identify realistic options for safe housing based on their own available resources rather than those of the crisis response system. The goal is for households to become housed within 45 days.
What does the data tell us?
In King County, from 2017 to 2018, when diversion was used as a strategy:
•75% of households successfully obtained housing.
•Only 5% of households returned to homelessness six months after obtaining housing through diversion.
•On average, it took 18 days to house individuals and families by using diversion.
 Based on HMIS data on RAP diversion, available upon request from King County.