2021 CDF Press Release

New Report Demonstrates Effectiveness of Flexible Diversion Funds for Young People At Risk of Homelessness


‘30 in 30’ challenge leads to 86 young people in Pierce, Spokane, Yakima, and Walla Walla counties prevented from entering the homelessness system or diverted out last month


WASHINGTON – A Way Home Washington (AWHWA), the campaign to prevent and end youth and young adult homelessness in Washington state, released an eye-opening new report explaining and demonstrating achievements of the Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF) pilot, a program that provides flexible payments made to prevent young people from experiencing homelessness or divert young people from homelessness within 30 days.

The report – The A Way Home Washington Centralized Diversion Fund: Using Flexible Funds to Prevent and End Youth and Young Adult Homelessness in Washington State was prepared for the Schultz Family Foundation, which serves as a key funder of the CDF along with the state Office of Homeless Youth. The report outlines the successes of the pilot program since its launch in August 2020 in Pierce, Spokane, Yakima, and Walla Walla counties. At press time in late May, the CDF had resulted in more than 220 young people finding a housing solution. 96% of people who exited homelessness did not return within three months. More than half were young people of color.

“Ending youth homelessness is not just about helping someone exit homelessness, it requires reaching a young person before they ever enter the homelessness system,” said Julie Patiño, Executive Director of A Way Home Washington. “By spending a relatively small amount of money now, we are able to creatively remove small barriers and end a young person’s housing crisis. In doing so, you save an incredible amount of time and resources later on – but most importantly, you might be saving someone’s life. The Centralized Diversion Fund is also an important tool to ensure young people of color and LGBTQ youth can access the unique housing resources that they need to move out of the homelessness system.”

A diversion fund is a flexible pool of money that can be drawn upon by youth workers in consultation with their clients – in this case, young people experiencing housing instability and at risk of not having a place to live. With the CDF, anyone who works with young people can be trained to administer diversion services, coupled with help for anything that might execute a housing plan, such as acquiring a state-issued identification card, filling out job applications, and applying for student financial aid. The CDF can be used for anything that will result in a young person being housed outside of the homelessness system. Examples include paying for child care so that a young parent can go to work and stabilize their housing situation, paying for a rental security deposit so that a young person can move into a new home, or  countless other creative solutions.

From May 20 to June 20, AWHWA worked with the four Anchor Communities – Pierce, Spokane, Yakima, and Walla Walla counties – to create an additional proof-of-concept for the CDF by launching the “30 Diversions In 30 Days” campaign. ‘30 In 30’ challenged each community to divert 30 young people out of homelessness during the 30 day period, using CDF funds and innovative housing solutions. In total, the communities broke expectations and served 86 young people over the 30 day stretch.

Elisha P., a Homeless Youth and Young Adult Services Navigator for Blue Mountain Action Council in Walla Walla, personally housed 19 people from May 20 to June 20. Elisha said, “As someone with my own experience of housing instability and young adult homelessness, I know that diversion is such a powerful tool beyond monetary measure. The real value is in the conversation that helps build a stronger connection between the young person and me. Connection and trust lends itself to some pretty amazing solutions. I can really lean in and create a space for the young person to share with me who they are and where they want to be. With that knowledge, I can sit in the passenger seat and help them find their own resolution. Diversion funding is what allows me to say “Yes!” when they identify a housing solution and make their creative idea a reality.”

AWHWA’s Anchor Community Initiative (ACI) that created the Centralized Diversion Fund is in the midst of a multi-year effort to functionally end youth and young adult homelessness in the four communities mentioned above – achieving “yes to yes,” where communities are able to stably house every young person experiencing homelessness quickly. Thanks to leadership from Governor Jay Inslee, AWHWA Co-Chair First Lady Trudi Inslee, and legislative leaders, state funding for the ACI was renewed this year for another budget biennium. At the same time, the state’s final budget includes funding to expand the ACI into new communities across the state. AWHWA will make announcements later this year about the future of ACI expansion, along with likely expansion of the CDF.

For more information (non press inquiries) about the Anchor Community Initiative and Centralized Diversion Fund, reach out to Ashley Barnes-Cocke at abarnes-cocke@awayhomewa.org.

What Is the Centralized Diversion Fund?

A Way Home Washington’s (AWHWA’s) Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF) is a cost-effective, young person-centered solution to homelessness and housing instability that is already transforming the four Anchor Communities. Since its launch last August at the height of the pandemic, Yakima, Pierce, Spokane and Walla Walla counties have collectively housed more than 220 youth and young adult (YYA) households.

Diversion is a core component of AWHWA’s strategy to end youth and young adult homelessness in Washington. The CDF model assists individuals or households in quickly securing housing outside of the homelessness response system. Together, the young person and a trained provider tailor strategies that lead to safe and stable housing, coupled with one-time financial assistance when needed. 

The CDF also serves as a tool for prevention. Young people who are experiencing housing instability can access the fund to stabilize their living situation before they ever enter homelessness.

Those working with young people in the Anchor Communities can get trained and certified to provide diversion services. AWHWA has been diligently ensuring that many non-traditional providers are trained and certified in addition to larger community providers. This way, the CDF is far-reaching and easily accessible for young people. School district, worksource, legal aid, service provider and shelter staff, as well as folks working in organizations designed primarily to serve young people who are BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color ) and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer) are among those being trained to directly access the CDF.

The first step to accessing diversion occurs when a young person seeks housing support in their community. This is followed by a service provider meeting with them to explore creative housing possibilities. If financial assistance is needed, it is offered through the CDF. The provider enrolls the young person into HMIS (Homeless Management Information System). Then the young person exits to safe and stable housing, and the provider follows up with them within fourteen days to update their new location.

To capitalize on the momentum of our Anchor Communities doing amazing work to house young people on May 20, we launched our CDF 30 in 30 Challenge— a 30 day period where Anchor Communities strive to complete 30 diversions each. So far, each community has found innovative ways to increase the number of housing placements while ensuring that the housing is safe, stable and most importantly, chosen by the young person.

To see how Anchor Communities are benefiting from the CDF and how much they are spending, click here to go to our Public CDF Dashboard.

ACI Impact in Spokane

According to Matt Davis, one of the ACI leads in Spokane, in the short time that the Anchor Community Initiative (ACI) has been active, it has made a noticeable impact on the homeless youth and young adult system. One example of this is the formation of the “Yes to Yes” Committee, which has a focus on case conferencing to ensure that young people are not left behind in the system. Through case conferencing, you can see the intentionality of cross-system collaboration to a common goal—moving youth and young adults out of the homeless system and into permanent housing!

Many people think of cross-system collaboration as everyone who works with a young person coming together to communicate and share resources. This is only partially true. 

Cross-systems collaboration also means asking, “who needs to be at the table to help this young person move from experiencing homelessness to being housed?” and not waiting for them to come to the table, but instead bringing the table to them.

The ACI has shifted the paradigm around youth and young adults’ expertise as well. When speaking with him, Matt and many others in Spokane truly believe that youth and young adults with lived experience are the key to understanding the impact of homelessness, the impact of policy change and finding the right solutions that work for ending homelessness. Spokane made the decision to ensure that the voices of those with lived experience are always present in their Built for Zero team as an affirmation of this belief.

Because working with young adults with lived experience has been so impactful, Spokane has started to work with people with lived experience for other subpopulations as well.

According to Matt, Spokane has always had a vision for wanting to do authentic youth and young adult collaboration but has not always had the resources or tools to do so in a way that is consistent and impactful.

Thankfully resources like state ACI Funding, which was recently renewed by Governor Inslee and the legislature, allows for communities to have extra funds dedicated to bringing those with lived experience to the table. 

In Spokane this means ensuring that young people, including those on the Youth Advisory Board, who contribute their time and expertise are always compensated. Other ways that state funding supports Spokane include: 

1. Adding additional resources to the data collection team. By participating in the ACI, achieving quality data and using continuous improvement science to drive reductions in homelessness other populations such as single adults and families are benefitting as well. Spokane has begun work to build By-Name Lists for all populations based on the learnings and tools developed through the ACI.

2. Fully funding the in-reach team. The in-reach team is the first point of contact for youth and young adults already experiencing homelessness in Spokane. The team is made up of a diverse group of members across several systems, including juvenile justice, education, local government, and others. 

The Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF) has also made it so youth and young adults don’t have to participate in systems to get help. Because they don’t have to go through systemic hurdles, young people can get help quickly through the CDF. This allows Spokane to do preventive work to keep young peoples from experiencing homelessness and adding to an already backlogged system. 

The success of the CDF in Spokane for youth and young adults has inspired Spokane County to do their own version of the CDF for other populations at risk of homelessness.

In only three years, the ACI has worked with Spokane to plan and implement some important changes to the structure and resource pool of the homeless youth and young adult system. Because of these changes, Matt Davis and the Spokane team believe that reaching “Yes to Yes” and ending youth and young adult homelessness in Spokane by the end of 2022 is in reach.

May 2021: Letter from the Executive Director

The 2021 legislative session recently ended, and we are thankful that funding for the Anchor Community Initiative (ACI) is in the final budget! This funding total is $8 million– $4 million for pre-existing communities and $4 million for ACI expansion. The funding is ongoing and not one time, which is a remarkable endorsement from the legislature for the ACI model. No young person should experience homelessness, but if they do– we hope that it will be rare, brief and one time. 

Thank you to our champions in the House and Senate– Representatives Timm Ormsby, Nicole Macri, Lisa Callan and Frank Chopp, and Senators Andy Billig, Christine Rolfes, June Robinson, T’wina Nobles and Jeannie Darneille. Thank you to the First Lady and Co-Chair of A Way Home Washington, Trudi Inslee for your leadership and support, as well as to Governor Jay Inslee for ensuring that ACI support was part of his budget from the onset of session. Also, many thanks to each and every one of you who came to our weekly legislative community updates and contacted your legislators. Your support has been invaluable and because of you, the ACI will continue to be stronger than ever. 

In other news, the ACI is making great progress in our original communities of Spokane, Walla Walla, Yakima and Pierce counties. I am very proud of the coaching and data support that our staff are providing to Anchor Communities. I am also proud of the way that the communities continue to show up and find new, creative and innovative ways to respond to systemic inadequacies. Youth and young adults are showing up in many different parts of the work and doing so in partnership with service providers to reduce the number of young people experiencing homelessness. 

Over the last several years, the communities have made amazing progress to reach their goal of ending youth homelessness by the end of next year.

Spokane County service providers doubled housing placements in October and have been sustaining that increase over the past five months. Spokane now has staff dedicated to outreach with system partners (such as schools and behavioral health) to prevent homelessness.

Walla Walla County has diversion resources and street outreach for the first time ever as a result of ACI state funding. They have also started reduction efforts through the use of ‘case conferencing’ with youth and young adults who have been identified by real-time, quality data as experiencing homeless.

Yakima County is collecting SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Expression) data for all populations to better understand how they can serve the most vulnerable populations. They were also the first to come up with an idea for how to use creative funds to address homelessness for students through A Way Home Washington’s Student Stability Innovation Grants process.

Pierce County has built a custom data transformation tool to enable service providers to more accurately track and use data. They also have the most people trained across their system to facilitate access to the Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF)- a program designed to help young people  get quick access to funds and receive case management geared towards helping them find innovative and unique solutions to housing.

All four communities have improved their data collection and reached quality, real-time data for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, and all have Youth Advisory Boards informing service providers and other professionals.

Through the CDF, 161 youth and young adult households across the four Anchor Communities have been diverted away from the homelessness system since it was launched in September 2020. 

In early 2021, we launched the Student Stability Innovation Grants program to address student homelessness and communities are already using it to serve this population.

There’s more to come over the next two years as our original four communities near their goal, and as we begin the process of expanding to a new set of communities across the state. Thank you for being a part of this journey!

Sincerely,

 

Julie Patiño,

Executive Director of A Way Home Washington

April 2021: Letter from the Executive Director

The last 12 months have been extremely challenging. So many individuals have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. At the center of A Way Home Washington’s work – preventing and ending youth and young adult homelessness – we have seen increased barriers for young people navigating an already complex system.

In our four Anchor Communities – Spokane, Yakima, Walla Walla and Pierce counties – we see the impact of COVID on young people, socially, mentally, economically and physically. Distancing from loved ones, not being able to attend class in-person, 6-foot restrictions at shelters and many other emerging policies have had a direct impact on young people experiencing homelessness. We also see COVID’s impact on service providers as they continue to carry out their duties with passion and to provide support to YYA experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

Our public systems have been challenged to be flexible and respond quickly to COVID. Because of that, we hope that LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer+) and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) young people experiencing homelessness are not left to fall through the cracks of these systems.

Even still, we are optimistic about the future. In the Anchor Communities, we are seeing a flood of support from service providers, private philanthropy, and local governments. Youth and young adults continue to show up to Youth Advisory Board (YAB) meetings and Anchor Community Initiative Core Team meetings to provide feedback and input on processes and systemic changes. Our staff have adapted to remote work, and are working hard to assist communities with finding solutions to these complex issues.

We are also encouraged by the news from Olympia – thanks to your advocacy, renewed funding has been secured for the four communities, keeping us on track to reach “functional zero” by the end of next year. It also seems likely that the Anchor Community Initiative will expand to a new cohort of communities, with other counties in the state building upon the resources and lessons learned of the first four.

Because of these efforts, It’s very clear to me that all of us are here and ready to prevent and end youth and young adult homelessness by helping Washington reach a “Yes to Yes” system. 

In closing, I want to share a quote from Azia Ruff, our ACI Coaching and Improvement Coordinator. She has said, “If the system isn’t working for youth and young adults, then the system isn’t working.” These words help center me, and keep all of us focused on why we do this work, as we move further into 2021 and closer to our goal of ending youth homelessness in Washington state. 

Sincerely,

 

Julie Patiño,

Executive Director of A Way Home Washington

My Story: Elsa St. Claire

Hello, my name is Elsa St Clair and I am 24 years old. My journey of homelessness began in
2017 and has been an ongoing battle since I came to Spokane in January 2020 and landed
at Hope House Women’s Shelter, where I stayed there for 5 months. Afterwards, I was able to
move into my current apartment through a Transitional Housing Program called Bridge

A month into staying at Bridge I was asked if I would be interested in participating in a Spokane Youth Advisory Board (YAB) meeting to share my lived experience with
homeless service providers. I knew right away I was on the path to making some big
changes for youth and young adults experiencing housing instability here in Spokane. 

Shortly after I began to attend YAB meetings, I was invited to an Anchor Community Initiative (ACI) Core Team Meeting. I sat in on my first ACI meeting just to listen and learn about what projects they were working on in the city of Spokane. There was a lot of information to absorb. 

In the second ACI Core Team meeting I began to share my input and engage with everyone else– showing what I had to offer to help our city. For me, ACI means helping Spokane’s current and future youth and young adults who are struggling. It also means getting to know community members and connecting with them to dismantle barriers preventing youth from having a roof over their heads. ACI has taken the youth voice seriously in implementing changes in the greater Spokane area and I am proud to be a part of the work taking place.

Diversion: Flexibility Fosters Creativity in Housing Young People

Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF) program houses nearly 170 young people since launch!

There is an underlying misconception in a lot of youth work: People need a whole myriad of services before they can be housed. But in its first 7 months of being launched, the Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF) program is already proving that to be a myth. CDF has already housed 161 young people across all four Anchor Communities in creative, immediate and unique ways that are often not possible with the traditional homeless housing system.

Screenshot of Public CDF Dashboard.

The CDF supports young people who are experiencing housing instability in finding quick, sustainable solutions to those barriers, often preventing homelessness before it starts. At its core, CDF is a strengths-based approach where providers partner with young people to creatively explore and plan for housing options outside of the already taxed homelessness housing system. This is done by providing swift, low-barrier financial  assistance for housing-related hiccups when needed.

Across the four communities, initial demographic data is showing that young people who identify as Hispanic/Latinx represent a large portion of requests at (27%). White young people represent 40 percent of requests, and Black or African American represent 22 percent. (Data got you curious? Check-out the CDF Dashboard here to see real-time data including more on demographics). 

It is all but clear that one population benefiting from CDF most so far is young people who are pregnant and/or parenting, who make up 44 percent of all requests submitted so far. Young families are often left out of many services designed for young people – but that doesn’t happen with CDF. 

In one example, a young parent with a newborn had gotten approved for an apartment but had nowhere to stay until their move-in date that was 3 weeks away. CDF was used to purchase a hotel for that time so this young family could be off the streets and safe until their move-in date. 

CDF can be used for basically anything – provided that the client meets eligibility and there’s a quick and direct pathway to housing outside the homelessness system. Since August, the Anchor Communities have used the flexibility of the program to get creative with housing young people. That includes, but is not limited to: 

  • Helping college students find/maintain stable housing. One young person was staying in shelter and had just enrolled in their local community college. After finding a roommate and place to live closer to campus, CDF was used to help with move-in costs and furniture. They were housed shortly after. 
  • Supporting folks exiting the foster care system. Another young person had just enrolled in extended foster care after exiting foster care (EFC) forced them to stay in a shelter. They were able to identify an apartment to live in that would be supported by EFC  ongoing, but just needed CDF to help with the administrative costs that the EFC was not able to pay for. 
  • Reuniting/reconnecting families – near and far. CDF was used to help a young person relocate to Puerto Rico, where they would reunite with their family, after the young person entered housing instability due to COVID. All that was needed was confirmation from the family in Puerto Rico, plane ticket and plan. 
  • Stabilizing the young person’s family. We already talked about how CDF is creatively housing current and expectant parents, but CDF can also have a ripple effect of benefit for other people in the young person’s network. In one example, a young person wanted to move in with their family member who just didn’t have a big enough space for them. Since this family member only received SSI benefits, they couldn’t afford the necessary re-housing fees for finding a space that worked – even with the young person helping with costs ongoing. CDF was used for the move-in costs for this family to be able to reunite with each other. 

Diversion changes the nature of service delivery by putting the power in the hands of the clients and honoring the fact that they know most about what they need. It allows space for creative housing solutions like those listed above, and others that are yet to even be thought of. Diversion’s low-barrier approach also makes it easier for clients to get the help they need in a more timely manner compared to other assistance programs because they don’t have to go.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Centralized Diversion Fund program and how it’s impacting Anchor Communities, please email us at kserantes@awayhomewa.org

Zooming Along: The 2021 Legislative Session & A Way Home Washington

We recently received great news for the future of the Anchor Community Initiative – and it’s all because of you. For the past two months, you’ve been organizing, contacting your legislators, and making your voices heard. And our champions in the legislature were listening.

Both the Senate and House have joined Governor Inslee and included an expansion of the Anchor Community Initiative (ACI) in their budgets. It is very likely this will be in the final budget passed by both chambers – with this funding, the ACI can expand to additional communities across Washington.

At the same time, both budgets include renewed funding for the original four Anchor Communities, meaning that the work can continue in Spokane, Pierce, Yakima, and Walla Walla counties. We are on our way to reaching “yes to yes” and ending youth and young adult homelessness in these four communities by the end of next year.

We have only reached this point because of the power of your organizing and advocacy. Every time you sent an email to your legislators, attended a meeting, shared a tweet, or spoke to your community, you were moving ACI expansion closer to reality. Just last week, we were honored to have two rallies attended by dozens of supporters from across Washington who heard from First Lady Trudi Inslee, our legislative champions, and young advocates.

Your input and feedback is one of the most powerful and impactful tools there is in influencing the legislature. So, thank you for using your voice on behalf of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. You made a difference!

While we are celebrating the positive budget news this week, the work isn’t over. There is still a month of legislative session, and we have to keep the pressure on to make sure the ACI stays in the budget all the way to final passage. Now, we can thank our champion legislators and urge them to keep up the fight. Senators Christine Rolfes, June Robinson, Andy Billig, Jeannie Darneille, and T’wina Nobles, and Representatives Timm Ormsby, Lisa Callan, Frank Chopp, and Tarra Simmons deserve our thanks!

If you’re able, send a quick message thanking our champions and urging them to keep up the fight on Anchor Community Initiative expansion in the final budget.

Other updates and thoughts: The 2021 legislative session has been “zooming” along – literally and metaphorically. This being the first fully virtual session, including committee meetings, floor action and meetings with legislators, it has been an exercise in modern technology. Perhaps the refrain, “You’re on mute,” has never been heard so often by so many. 

Also notable about the 2021 legislative session is the incredible impact of the diversity of lawmakers within the body. Having so many legislators who are people of color, combined with the impact of being all-virtual and eliminating barriers to travel to Olympia, has resulted in many more people of color testifying on proposed bills that have informed the debate in a powerfully positive way. Bills such as law enforcement reform, landlord-tenant relations, and adding a progressive capital gains tax have been front and center with the diversity of public testimony being exponentially more interesting and valuable than in years past.

As we march forward these last few weeks of the 2021 session, we do so convinced that the best way to end adult homelessness is to end youth and young adult homelessness. We are building a “Yes to Yes” system in Washington so that when young people say “Yes, I need support,” their local communities can say in return “Yes, come inside for safe housing and a path forward”.  Come join us!  Young people and families are relying on all of US. Thank you for all that you do.

Yakima: The First Community to Use Student Stability Innovation Grants

We are so excited to let you know that we recently launched our newest project to end unaccompanied student homelessness – Student Stability Innovation Grants. YAKIMA is the FIRST community to submit a grant request and it has been APPROVED!!!!

Yakima Neighborhood Health Services will test the use of peer social media influencers to outreach and engage LGBTQ+ unaccompanied students experiencing homelessness in Yakima County, to increase requests for prevention, housing and support services. Grant funds will pay two young people to engage their peers on social media during the summer months when unaccompanied students are harder to reach. The influencers will craft posts, accurately respond to questions, and generate ideas for engaging their followers. 

The test period is July-September 2021 and the goal is to increase the number of street outreach enrollments of unaccompanied LGBTQ+ students by 20%. Their baseline data will be the amount of enrollments they have documented from the same time period in 2020.

Student Stability Innovation Grants

The Student Stability Innovation Grants project provides a limited number of grants up to $5,000 per project for Anchor Communities to test truly innovative system changes to prevent and end housing instability for unaccompanied students aged 12-24.

Core Teams can find all the necessary documents, tools and webforms on the Innovation Grants Page on our Resource Hub

Student Stability Innovation Grants Forms

*Printable version in the Guidelines

Student Stability Innovation Grants Resources

We are so excited for the first of many out-of-the-box change ideas to move our communities closer to ending student homelessness, and homelessness for all unaccompanied young people!

If you have any questions, please reach out to Ashley, ACI Project Director at abarnes-cocke@awayhomewa.org

ACI: Pierce County– Increasing Housing Placement Rates By 30%

Congratulations to Pierce County on achieving the of their first reducing process measure—increasing housing placement rates by 30% by the end of September 2020. With assistance from the ACI Coaching team, Pierce County set this goal and began working on it in mid-June. A big factor in choosing this goal was the level of success and ease of implementation that they have seen from other communities across the country that were working with one of our partner agencies—Community Solutions. Consistently increasing housing placements is critical for communities to see reductions in homelessness overall in their systems

Pierce County leaned into this reducing goal, and three workgroups were created:

  1. Maximizing Diversion Success
  2. Increasing permanent housing exits
  3. Accessible housing programs

The Increasing Permanent Housing Exits workgroup conducted a focus group with youth and young adults in Pierce County to understand what they need to remain housed once they transition into permanent housing. The Maximizing Diversion Success subcommittee focused on ensuring the right service providers in Pierce County were trained to access the CDF resource.

Increasing the quality of data collection has been a tremendously helpful resource to communities during the reducing phase. In addition, the Pierce County Core Team increased the frequency that they updated their housing placement data so that they could see week-by-week breakdowns. These frequent updates allowed the Core Team to be aware of how many youths and young adults were exiting homelessness in real time.

Now that Piece County has achieved their first reducing process measure, they have moved on to their new goal of reducing homelessness for youth of color by 30% by March 2021. Going forward, Pierce County is thinking about what other reducing projects that they can implement that are more influenced by the outcomes of the homeless system and what needs to be done to reach a functional end to youth homelessness by the end of 2022. Every goal communities hit should be intentional about positively moving the data to see a reduction in the amount of youth coming into the system and an increase in those exiting.