Shelter Diversion Training

Shelter diversion is a strategy that prevents homelessness at the front door  by helping them identify immediate alternate housing arrangements and, if necessary, connecting them with services and financial assistance to help them return to permanent housing. Diversion programs can reduce the number of families becoming homeless, the demand for shelter beds, and the size of program wait lists. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the National Alliance to End Homelessness encourage communities to include shelter diversion as an important part of Coordinated Access efforts, particularly for families.

CCEH hosts a variety of trainings on shelter diversion throughout the year. To check for future trainings in diversion, please click here. To request a diversion training to be held with your agency or in your region, please email

If you attended the train-the-trainer in Diversion, you can click here for trainer resources.

Key Concepts

Conflict Resolution Approach:

This approach recognizes that homelessness is a crisis. Just like a person in crisis, a homeless individual is often less able to think through their problems clearly and advocate for themselves than if they were not in crisis. 

Empowerment Client-Centered:

Do not assume what people need. Instead, help them articulate their needs. You want to empower them to identify their own safe and appropriate housing options and help them regain control over their lives.

Strength-Based Approach:

Help clients identify the strengths, successes, and resources that they have used in the past to help them now with their episode of homelessness.

My Version

Diversion is a prevention activity meant to take place at the shelter door, not once they are staying there. It is not meant to be a barrier to shelter.

Remember that homelessness is a crisis and people are usually not at their best when they are under stress. 


During Strength Exploration, consider their current and past Housing History, Income History, and whether every option is safe and appropriate.Whether it is:

Diversion Outcomes

Permanently Back with Family & Friends: When there is no better option, no housing history, no income history consider how to get them permanently back with family and friends. Look for how the client can contribute to the household and how the client can use this time for further education or employment. Consider services that could also be used to help them contribute. Such as if they can provide childcare, or transportation through bus passes, food from food pantries, or other assistance cleaning or cooking around the home. Remember: is the situation safe and appropriate.

Return to their own Residence: This outcome may come from a “walk-away” client where you can provide assistance with current or back rent to keep them housed, a non-domestic violence relationship that can be resolved or where compromise is possible, or previous places they have lived with parents or other relationships.

Temporarily Diverted as they seek new housing: For someone who wants to live independently and has done so successfully in the past with current or past income history, help them think through a plan of where to stay until that is possible, with diversion support for new independent housing.

Relocating permanently to a safe place out of town: If there is a safe and appropriate host within the clients support system which will agree to host them for at least 30 days, they can be diverted through assistance with travel and logistics.



the intimate comprehension of another person’s thoughts and feelings without adding our own judgement or expectations. (National Alliance on Mental Illness)


Active Listening is key to diversion and empowerment. Ask open-ended questions, paraphrase to acknowledge what you are being told. Avoid taking notes, as this can make it feel less like a conversation. Avoid judgmental verbal and body language.

Reality Therapy:

This is when you go over clients ideas and expectations and consider concerns of how realistic those are. These questions should be open-ended and not judgmental.


Non-Judgmental Reality Testing:

How would that look?

Have you done something like this before?

What other options have you considered?

What resources do you have to carry this out?


The Five Principles for Good Homeless Prevention

The National Alliance to End Homelessness

Principle One: Crisis Resolution

Principle Two: Client choice, respect, and empowerment

Principle Three: Provide the minimum assistance necessary for the shortest time possible

Principle Four: Maximize community resources

Principle Five: The right resources to the right people at the right time

*The Cost of Homelessness

This resource is a breakdown of the costs on public systems related to homelessness over a ten year period provided by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. 

Diversion, depending on the individual case, can financially require anything from the cost of staff time and a phone call conciliation to return to housing or a bus ticket to not much more than $1,000 for the first months rent and/or deposit.

This is far less expensive than assistance such as Rapid Re-Housing ($5,000+), Shelter Stays (Shelter bed is $8,600 more than Sec 8 subsidy),* or street homelessness ($2,414 more in hospitalization vs. housed person, etc.)

Additional Diversion Resources:

CAN Assessment Worksheet

Step by step guide to the CAN assessment with tips and reminders on key diversion techniques. 

A Guide to Shelter Diversion for Program Directors and Management

This resource focuses on the role of management, executive directors, boards, and funders in making shelter diversion part of their organization’s role in preventing and ending homelessness.

Creating a Successful Diversion Program for Homeless Families

This guide from the National Alliance to End Homelessness covers best practices for establishing and administrating an effective diversion program for homeless families and gives a closer look to what diversion can look like for clients.

Sample Client Support Map

This is a sample template created by the National Alliance to End Homelessness to help clients and support workers create a clear view of their resources in terms of community assistance and resources, friends, families, and their own abilities.

New London Shelter Diversion Report

This report is on the results of shelter diversion strategies on homeless families in New London County from 2013-2015

CAN Assessment Diversion Outline

This is a guide through using Diversion in each and every CAN appointment, from how to introduce yourself and actively listen, to moving forward with your client.

be homeful

In 2014, the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness launched be homeful, a bold and innovative project designed to help Americans stamp out family homelessness for good. We understand that the most effective way to end homelessness is to never let it begin in the first place.

The be homeful project’s goals are to raise awareness and funds to give families and businesses tools to help neighbors in need. Starting here in Connecticut, we aim to:V-Day PR Image

  • tell the story of family homelessness in the United States, starting in our home state
  • offer parents, educators, and libraries tools for helping children understand this difficult issue
  • provide families and businesses with concrete tools for keeping informed and lending a hand
  • launch a fund that communities can access to help families stay in the comfort of home
  • develop cause marketing arrangements and promotions that raise awareness and funds

For information on be homeful and how you can be involved, click here.

be homeful Forms:

CCEH be homeful Fund For Family Shelter Diversion Subcontract Agreement

CCEH be homeful Fund For Family Shelter Diversion Financial Assistance Request Form