United Way supports more than 77 partner organizations – including Father Bill’s & MainSpring, which runs a successful shelter diversion program.
Last year, Lucie, her two children, and her grandson were living in a hotel after their lease was abruptly and unexpectedly terminated. Lucie started working more hours at her two jobs so she could save up enough money to move into a new apartment. However, Lucie didn’t have enough money to take her family’s belongings out of storage and move into a new apartment. Father Bill’s & MainSpring helped out by paying Lucie’s storage fees, allowing her to move her family into their own their housing.
Organizations like Father Bill’s & MainSpring stand ready every day to assist families who are experiencing homelessness and help them find emergency shelter and access rehousing services. But what if they could prevent families from becoming homeless in the first place?
A successful shelter diversion program
Many families who are at risk of homelessness may simply have fallen behind on their rent, be in the midst of eviction proceedings, or are running out of time living “doubled up” with friends or relatives who just can’t accommodate them any longer. To help families in these and other situations, Father Bill’s & MainSpring operates a successful shelter diversion program in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development to identify and connect them to services and resources that will help them find a new home.
Families who show up at Father Bill’s who qualify for the shelter diversion program receive help that day instead of being referred to shelter. The program helps to locate a safe housing alternative and provides short- or medium-term financial assistance and services to help them stabilize.
“Our goal is to help families to avoid the shelter system by finding them a new place to live or helping to stabilize them where they are,” said John Yazwinski, President and CEO at Father Bill’s & MainSpring. “Diversion is a critical tool to help families avoid the displacement and trauma of homelessness, and ensure children stay in their schools, parents are near their jobs, and the whole family remains in their communities and connected to their support networks.”
Father Bill’s, based out of Quincy and Brockton, serves the South Shore and is one of five family shelter providers in the region. Last year, 180 families (42%) seeking immediate shelter through Father Bill’s were able to avoid a shelter stay altogether and instead receive housing and services.
Here’s how it works: a team of staff meets with all families who are eligible for shelter. They assess their needs and work with the families to identify options for avoiding shelter and finding housing. Most families receive rental assistance through the state’s HomeBASE program to lease a new apartment. Other families receive funds to relocate to another community where a family member has offered shared housing. Also common is paying a portion of a family member’s rent or other household expenses so they’ll take the homeless family in – this solution often has the effect of stabilizing both families in housing.
What’s more, families who are diverted also are connected to an employment specialist who assists them in obtaining training, job placement, or increasing wages.
United Way supports more than 77 partner organizations and is investing over $7.6 million this year in agencies and initiatives that are implementing effective strategies in workforce development, financial coaching and homelessness prevention. This comprehensive approach helps to ensure families not only find safe, stable housing, but also it ensures they have quality child care, and jobs that allow them to support themselves and their families.
Last year, United Way and its partners enabled 10,429 families on the brink of homelessness to remain in their homes and placed 1,967 homeless families into permanent, affordable housing.
Check out Lucie’s full story in Father Bill’s & MainSpring’s Annual Report, set to be published in February 2018.