Newsletter: Creating a Diversion

News Date

Our cars, our houses, our health... we all know it's cheaper to fix problems before they spiral and become a crisis …  the same is true when it comes to ending someone’s homelessness!

It’s this approach that’s driving a big vote on Tuesday to prevent people from becoming chronically homeless – by scaling-up a successful practice called “diversion.” 

“Diversion”? Huh? Usually when we hear this word, it has nothing to do with planning ahead (“Quick, create a diversion!”). But in public-policy land, diverting people from a life of homelessness has proven to be an effective strategy to quickly steer  someone away from a shelter stay or night in a vehicle — and into a housed situation.

How do we know this works? Data! A 2018 study by the Gates Foundation showed diversion delivered results while being faster, more effective, less costly, and requiring less ongoing government support than interventions like emergency shelter. 

Don’t take their word for it - in 2019, the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness and their partners have diverted nearly 1,500 households from homelessness, which means nearly 2,000 fewer people are homeless living in shelters, on our streets, in canyons, or their cars. In fact, 85 percent of San Diego clients remain stably housed after participating in these diversion efforts. 

What does it do? This program provides rapid financial assistance to help an individual or family from losing their house. It can take the form of:

  • Rental assistance to bridge the time between paychecks

  • Paying off a utility bill to keep the lights on and your food from spoiling

  • Covering emergency car repairs to get you back to work

The help is only provided if a case worker believes someone is in danger of becoming homeless and this monetary aid can help avoid that.

It makes financial sense too: The average spent on diversion per client is nearly $1,500. In contrast, the average length of homelessness is 169 days with a shelter bed costing up to $60 per night — that’s more than $10,000. It’s much less if if we help that person sooner!

But here’s the problem: I firmly believe that we can use data to measure our success and use evidence to guide the decisions made with your tax dollars.  So when I came to learn that this diversion was working, but didn’t have enough resources to be scaled up, I decided that we should change that.

So what’s happening now? I’ve been meeting with people and partners to make the case for funding this program; and I said that if they donated, I would seek funding as well. As a result of these efforts, on Tuesday we’re voting to supercharge this program with an additional $1 million in funding. Partners include the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, County of San Diego, Cushman Foundation, Lucky Duck Foundation, Jewish Community Foundation, San Diego Foundation, Conrad Prebys Foundation, Funders Together to End Homelessness and City of San Diego,.

Don’t forget the big picture: Over the last three years, the County of San Diego is more involved in this region’s fight against homelessness, than it has ever been. We are working closely with the 18 incorporated cities, and unincorporated communities on a regular basis. I grew up here, and I’m going to make sure we keep fighting for our communities! 

Saturday on the Shore — Join Me!

Hey La Jolla and Pacific Beach — join me at the Coast Walk Trailhead for a meet and greet this Saturday! Our recent get-together in Encinitas was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to the same vibe this weekend. 

I’ll be strolling along the La Jolla bluffs and I’d love for you to come along. Don’t forget to bring your walking shoes!

Let me know if you’ll be there so we can plan for you. RSVP here.

In Service,