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.

Launching the Centralized Diversion Fund

To end youth and young adult homelessness, we need a variety of solutions in our toolbox. Young people’s situations are unique, and that means communities must build the capacity to respond to all sorts of needs. That’s why we created the Centralized Diversion Fund, a source of flexible financial assistance to help secure housing for young people.

Diversion is a creative problem-solving approach where service providers empower young people to take the necessary steps to address their unique situation and secure housing quickly. Providers let young people take the lead in identifying the housing solution that will work for them, and support young people to implement their housing plan. This allows communities to use creative conversations paired with funding to resolve young people’s immediate housing needs, rather than waiting for housing units to open up.

Diversion can mean many different types of support, from connecting young people with family or friends who can house them, to negotiating with a landlord. At times, diversion can lead to a housing placement without any financial assistance, but as we’ve heard from young people before, sometimes what they truly need to stay housed is cash. That’s where the Centralized Diversion Fund comes in.

Our systems typically make it too difficult for no- and low-income folks to access the type of funding they need. Flexibility is key to respond to the needs described by young people, yet program models are often too prescriptive. Programs can also be tied to arbitrary measures of worthiness, like employment, and ignore the lived realities of people experiencing poverty. We want to remove these barriers and meet young people where they are, so the Centralized Diversion Fund can be accessed by any unaccompanied young person (ages 12-24) experiencing homelessness or at imminent risk of homelessness who needs financial assistance to secure housing.

I have led diversion programs for young people before, and they come up with so many unique housing solutions. In one instance, a young person had a aunt in Oakland who she could stay with if she could get there, so diversion paid for repairs to her car and gas cards for the trip. In another, a young person’s entire family was experiencing homelessness – they had broken up because it was easier to access services that way. We paid for that young person’s first and last month’s rent and deposit to move into an apartment, and the whole family was reunified and housed as a result. The solutions are already within young people, and our role is to provide the resources they need to make the solutions possible.

After months of planning and securing private and public funds, we’ve launching the Centralized Diversion Fund this summer in our four Anchor Communities: Pierce, Spokane, Walla Walla, and Yakima. We’ve selected a local organization to administer the funds in each of these communities, and we’re training service providers in each community to engage young people in diversion conversations and request financial assistance from the fund when it’s needed.

With COVID-19 upending the way we work, our team had to get creative and find ways to keep moving towards a summer launch. We believe that the fund is more important than ever in this moment because the pandemic has impacted so many young people’s ability to earn money. It’s a critical time to ensure young people have access to cash, especially with the end of the eviction moratorium looming ahead of us on October 15. We launched the Centralized Diversion Fund on July 30, 2020!.

When young people can access funds to quickly address their housing crises, they are able to stay out of the homeless system. That in turn preserves resources for young people who have no alternative solutions, and results in faster housing placements within the homeless system. We believe the Centralized Diversion Fund and other cash assistance programs will play a key role in achieving our mission to end youth and young adult homelessness.