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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.
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.
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:
Step Up, a 501(c)(3) organization, began providing psychosocial rehabilitation and support in 1984 when a woman sought urgently needed mental health services for her loved one. Finding none, and dissatisfied with the status quo, Susan Dempsay took action and started 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.
Staff began observing that many Step Up members were experiencing homelessness, complicating and exacerbating their already complex needs. In 1994, Step Up’s first permanent supportive housing community with 36 units was built. Some of the original tenants are still living in their units today. In 2018, Step Up has a total of 650 permanent supportive housing developments and scattered sites in Santa Monica, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Pasadena and Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, and soon in the Southeastern US.
Step Up has developed a three-pronged approach to services for individuals experiencing mental health conditions: permanent supportive housing, vocational training and placement, and member-driven supportive services, reflecting Step Up’s core values of Hope, Wellness, Voice & Choice, Respect, and Collaborative Relationships.
What started humbly in a warehouse shell in Santa Monica is now a thriving community agency with a staff of over 200 serving thousands of individuals annually–all free of charge.