Linda knows better than anyone that shelter should be a last resort.

That’s because it was her last resort two years ago for five months while she recovered from emergency brain surgery.

Now, she works as a COTS’ Diversion Specialist, helping people avoid the disruption of homelessness and shelter living.  “I was treated well when I stayed here,” Linda says. “I got the help I needed, but there’s not much sleeping, not much rest in a shelter. You always feel off balance.”

She does whatever it takes to help people regain their balance in housing.  For some, it’s as simple as pointing them to a program that will help them pay their delinquent utility bill; others may need help with paperwork or a rental deposit. But many others need more assistance.

Take the 23-year-old woman who was living in a car with her husband and her daughters, ages 2 and 3. Study after study shows that homelessness—especially if it’s prolonged—can stunt children’s development. “The husband was working. They had a great income, they wanted to provide a home,” Linda says. “But they had bad credit.”

Linda helped the couple make targeted payments to improve their credit in a landlord’s eyes, and then, because they’d spent their reserves on credit repair, she lined them up with a program to help them cover their rental deposit. The family moved to an apartment of their own shortly before the New Year.

For some people, Linda has to be a lion. Recently, a mom got in touch with Linda because she’d gotten two months behind on her rent. Her daughter has Cystic Fibrosis and the mom had had to miss work to help her manage her illness.

In the nick of time, Linda found a foundation that could potentially help. But with only days left until the duo would lose their housing, the foundation’s administrative staff weren’t hopeful that a request could be approved and finalized in time. Linda turned to Google and found a way to get in touch with officers and leadership staff who authorized immediate assistance. The mom has found a teaching job and should be able to cover her rent from now on.

“There are a lot of sick people who need help,” Linda says. “They’re tired. They need advocates.”