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Step Up | About
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Our Vision


Step Up envisions that all individuals, families, and communities affected by serious mental health issues, and persons who are experiencing chronic homelessness, will have the opportunity to experience recovery and a sense of belonging, and that permanent supportive housing will be available to everyone.


Our Mission


Step Up delivers compassionate support to people experiencing serious mental health issues, and persons who are experiencing chronic homelessness, to help them recover, stabilize, and integrate into the community. Through dynamic partnerships, we provide positive social and learning environments, vocational training, permanent supportive housing opportunities, and recovery services to empower individuals to cultivate lives of hope and dignity. We exercise innovative leadership and advocacy to increase public understanding, support, and acceptance of all people living with serious mental health issues.




Mental health issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression are real, biologically-based conditions that are no one’s fault. The courageous individuals we serve are part of a sobering national picture: 50% of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness also experience mental health issues.

Step Up, a 501(c)3 organization, began providing psychosocial rehabilitation and support in 1984, when a woman’s deep love for a family member caused her to take action and create Step Up on Second. Searching for services and finding very few, founder Susan Dempsay had no choice but to start a center offering services that could not be found anywhere else.

Her vision included a supportive environment with productive activities, including art therapies, supported employment training, coping skills, service coordination, and social connectedness. Family members accessed help through support groups that met every month. Initially, Step Up served approximately 10 individuals a day and offered a limited number of services.

What started humbly in a warehouse shell in Santa Monica is now a thriving community agency serving over 1,800 individuals annually and providing 200 permanent supportive housing units at Step Up on Second, Step Up on Fifth, Step Up on Colorado, Daniel’s Village, Step Up on Vine, Michael’s Village, and The Tammy. Today, over 100 individuals are seen daily and offer over 22 different programs address the issues of the entire individual and provide a continuum of care, all free of charge.


3 Core Strategies or Pillars of Service


Step Up’s vision and mission are delivered to individuals, including adults, Transitional Age Youth (TAY) between the ages of 16-28 years, and Veterans, through the design of its three pillars of service:

  1. Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH): Serious mental health conditions are at the root of chronic homelessness for many. The permanent supportive housing of Step Up brings the stability and inclusion that leads to recovery for adults and transitional aged youth (18-28 years of age) experiencing these mental health conditions and other complex barriers. Each unit is flexible, voluntary, and tenant-centered, with a support system to help individuals move from the streets to home and remain in that home.
  2. Vocational Training and Employment: Productivity is an important aspect of quality of life. Step Up offers coaching and mentoring opportunities including pre-vocational training, techniques for job interviews, employment preparation, and job placement. Participants gain hands-on experiences in positions such as word processing, data entry, facilities maintenance, receptionist duties, clerical support, food service, restaurant kitchen operations, and retail associate work. All Step Up members desiring meaningful, community-competitive employment will be assisted in achieving that goal. In fact, Step Up has some former members on its staff.
  3. Member-driven Supportive Services: Reduce harm, prevent relapse and foster recovery. Professional staff and peer advocates (fellow members who have experienced mental health conditions and homelessness and are in the process of recovery), provide assistance to members as they achieve self-determined goals. There is service coordination, psychiatrists for medication care, and transportation; weekly support groups covering a range of topics from story-telling to managing medications, from yoga to money management, along with a variety of creative activities like art classes and a writing group; and a Computer Learning Center where members can learn basic computer skills. A Parent Support Group provides strength, and hope for family members.

Member-driven supportive services

Employment training and placement opportunities 

Permanent Supportive Housing

Learn more about the programs and services that Step Up provides…

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