It’s easy to think that anyone who seeks services at a homeless shelter is actually homeless and in need of a safe place to stay for the night. However, according to Austin Street’s Executive Director Daniel Roby, that’s not always the case, “Sometimes people come to us in shock, having just been kicked out of their apartment. They often haven’t had the time to think through what other options might be available to them. They are just thinking, ‘I need shelter tonight.’”
According to Director of Programs Dustin Perkins, “Diversion allows us to have a comprehensive understanding of a person’s true needs. When you’re overwhelmed, when something traumatic has happened, sometimes it’s hard to see when you do really have options. We can help with that.” Citing statistics that show the best predictor of homelessness is whether or not a person has been homeless in the past, Dustin knows that preventing homelessness in the first place is a major step in ending homelessness altogether.
Dustin tells an example of just such an individual: “People can get ‘stuck’ in Dallas because it’s a transportation hub. A family member was supposed to wire money for the next leg of the trip and didn’t follow through, or you miss a connection and your ticket was nonrefundable. The other day a man came to us—he was on his way to Texarkana to stay with family, but couldn’t afford his bus ticket. For around $20 we were able to send him home, preventing him from ever becoming homeless in the first place.”
Austin Street’s diversion initiative is not about keeping folks out. More nights than not, we turn people away for lack of space—by ensuring whoever comes to our door is experiencing a true housing crisis, we are able to help more people, and prevent an individual from experiencing homelessness.
“The most important thing is empowering those who come to us for help,” says Dustin, “People are best able to resolve a housing crisis before it starts, so our role is to facilitate that person arriving at a solution before they ever become homeless.”
One of our most important roles is to be the bridge to solutions. With 1-2 people being diverted each week, Austin Street is able to help more people who are in need of the intensive case management and housing assistance we provide.