REDS: Finding Alternatives to Emergency Shelters

It’s no secret that we are seeing many people in Lane County becoming homeless for the first time in their lives. In partnership with Lane County, the city of Eugene, and the city of Springfield, the Rapid Exit and Diversion Services (REDS) program was created to address this issue. ShelterCare began providing the service to our community in January of 2021. “Rapid Exit and Diversion Services is a program that is designed to assist people experiencing homelessness, or imminently facing homelessness, for a number of reasons like formal eviction or being asked to leave if you’re couch surfing,” explains Theresa, Rapid Resolution Specialist at ShelterCare. REDS works to help newly unhoused individuals avoid overwhelmed emergency shelters, and unsheltered living situations, by navigating housing options within their own social network.

Often, program participants within REDS just need one-time financial assistance, “if any person they know is willing to offer them housing for any period of time, and they can confirm that with us, we can accommodate travel expenses to get there,” Theresa says, “we can help someone who’s offered housing by covering a utility bill, providing funds for groceries, or paying partial rent.”

Belinda, Rapid Resolution Specialist at ShelterCare, explains another piece of what REDS does, “they might just need us to help mediate with a family member to let them come back home…that can be challenging because they may have left on bad terms due to an addiction or a falling out.”

Diversion focuses on individuals who are newly homeless or have been experiencing homelessness for a short period of time. “We might get a call and have them diverted in a 24 hour period, it’s very quick. Sometimes we don’t even meet the person to have a diversion be successful,” explains Theresa.

Helping program participants get into housing as quickly as possible is always the goal, but there are challenges that come with this speedy process. “I have to remind myself that I’m not a case manager, but just doing a diversion. As a case manager, you see people over and over and get to develop that relationship. We have to do it quickly and have people trust us sometimes just over the phone,” says Belinda.

The REDS program has created an opportunity for ShelterCare to strengthen relationships with other agencies, “we also get referrals from external agencies in the area and national agencies…it’s really cool to work alongside other service providers and be part of a solution,” says Theresa, “recently we did a diversion for an asylum-seeker who was referred to us by Each Step Home – they help folks seeking asylum status is the US from Latin America.”

Theresa explains the story further, “she came here seeking a better life for herself, her children, and her 16-year-old brother who was in a detention center in Texas on the border…she was able to reunite with her brother and he was released into her care. They came to Eugene to stay with a family member, which turned out to not be appropriate.”

The REDS team was connected to her through the Eugene Mission where she was staying and immediately began creating a diversion plan, “we were able to secure travel for her, her two children, and her little brother, make sure they had car seats, a baby carrier, someone who could go through security with her, and someone on the other end picking her up. She flew to Dallas where a host family was able to offer her housing then help her move onto learning English, getting documentation, getting an attorney for her case, and getting employment. We worked so hard on that diversion and it was incredibly rewarding because the personal cost for that person was so great and to not follow through on that diversion would have been incredibly detrimental to her and her family,” says Theresa.

Our Rapid Resolution Specialists make stories like this one possible. Belinda talks about how she is always trying to put her program participants first, “It’s important to make them feel like an individual, that they have a story, and that we want to hear it and help.”

Theresa explains what inspires her to wake up and do this work each day, “Every person we engage with has value in this world regardless of history, mental health, physical health, and criminal records. They all have value and purpose and they are as deserving of assistance as everyone else is in this world. The opportunity to be part of a solution for any person in crisis or in need is incredible and something we take very seriously.”

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