On July 5th, Mercy Housing and Shelter Corporation launched a new “Diversion Center” program at St. Elizabeth House. Relying on best practices and successful outcomes, Mercy Team Members worked to design this program for nearly nine months to have it become a reality. The program was the idea of Mercy’s Executive Director, Dave Martineau. “I’ve worked in programs most of my life and I know the challenges people are facing to stay in their homes successfully”, said Dave Martineau. I knew if we could create a program that could help people navigate the obstacles, and remove the barriers for them; it would have a huge impact on moving them out of homelessness.” The program is designed to “divert” people from becoming homeless, or work to quickly get them back into housing. When someone loses their housing, they come to the City of Hartford seeking shelter, but in reality, according to a recent workshop hosted by Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, nearly thirty percent of the people in this situation can be diverted from this tragic outcome with minimal mediation. Often the solution can be overcome with little or no money to reverse the events leading to homelessness, saving thousands of dollars to the city and state.

Mercy’s Diversion Center provides an array of services designed to help the individual facing problems that have contributed to their current situation. This new program was created with an unprecedented collaboration of many programs in the City of Hartford. We are appreciative to the homeless providers that are sending staff to assist. These providers include: Journey Home, Salvation Army, Chrysalis Center, and Community Health Resources. “We are meeting with on average, twenty-five people per day who have been scheduled through 211 Infoline,” said Judith Gough, Associate Executive Director of Mercy. “Having these community providers involved moves the process along quicker. We have been overwhelmed by the need of the homeless community. As fast as we can meet with clients, more are contacting 211 Infoline to schedule appointments,” said Judith.

In Mercy’s new Diversion Center, Case Managers assess each person’s situation and determine what mediation is needed. In some cases, it might be calling a family member to bring them back together and allow the client to return to their home. While they are at St. Elizabeth House, clients can see a Nurse or Physician’s Assistant in the new medical suite staffed by Charter Oak Health Center. Clients can also enjoy a warm meal in the soup kitchen, or take a hot shower.

A few weeks ago the Diversion Center had a need for nonperishable food, undergarments, toiletries, and children’s clothing. “We had families coming in with children wearing the same clothing each day,” said Judith. She reached out to Mercy’s Development Director and a number of groups responded, offering to hold a collection and purchase items from a “Wish List” created on the popular Amazon shopping site.

Evonne Klein, Commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Housing, was recently asked about the success of Mercy’s Diversion Center. She said, “Mercy planned for months, working closely with our office along the way, to ensure that they would be able to effectively address the needs of homeless individuals and families in Hartford. We’re proud to support Mercy’s good work, which will have a lasting impact for years to come.”