Next week, our community will expand the capacity of the Housing Crisis Line (HCL), The HCL is the primary means of accessing services for people experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness. The following is the history of the HCL and an explanation of its expansion.

In January 2016, the Greater Richmond Continuum of Care (GRCoC) launched the Shelter Diversion Line, a pilot program led by YWCA that provided assistance in resolving housing crises for people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. In October 2017, an announcement of the discontinuation of services by our community’s shelter referral provider changed the way that people access emergency shelter. In response, shelter referral changed from a being housed at physical location to a phone-based Access Point. This change was supported by regional data on client phone ownership and access, robust community input, private investment, and GRCoC board approval.  To meet this need, in January of 2018 YWCA expanded their staff and programming to relaunch the Shelter Diversion Line as the Housing Crisis Line (HCL) and the community asked Homeward to add two full-time Shelter and Housing Coordinator positions to our staff. The phone number for the HCL remained the same, but the services expanded to provide clients with access to our region’s shelter and housing intervention referral process. While the scope of the services expanded, the focus on Diversion as a best practice remained an integral part of the client services at HCL.

Diversion is an emerging best practice in homeless services that empowers clients to maximize the resources available to them by helping them identify opportunities to solve their housing crisis. The client-focused service of Diversion has delivered promising results across the country.

Because of successful programs like the HCL, the Richmond region is among the list of communities that are leading the national trend to reduce the number of people in need of emergency shelter by diverting them to safe alternatives. The data on clients diverted from homelessness through the HCL shows that 897 (or 21.6%) of clients that called the phone line were successfully diverted from emergency shelter during the first two quarters of 2018.Screenshot 20 edited

Due to the high volume of calls received, our community of homeless services providers have collaborated to create a multi-agency expansion of the HCL. This partnership will include expanding the number of Diversion Specialists for the phone line from 3 to 5, with three agencies providing the staffing for the new positions. These agencies are Housing Families First, HomeAgain, and Area Congregations Together for Service (ACTS). A new Homeward staff member will provide program supervision and coordination with community partners. All program staff, including Homeward’s existing Shelter and Housing Coordinators, will be housed in Homeward offices and the phone line will be rebranded as the Homeless Crisis Line as a more accurate description of the services provided.

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