Minutes from June 13, 2017 Open Board Meeting-Step Up (addressing chronic homelessness)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

 Open Board of Directors Meeting

 San Bernardino Community College District
114 S. Del Rosa Drive
San Bernardino, CA 92408



Present: Deborah Barmack, Peter Barmack, Carole Beswick, Ann Bryan, Mike Burrows, Rachelle Bussell, Ken Coate, Jennifer Cusack, Ashley Gaines, Lowell King, Pam Langford, John Mirau, Michael Rivera, Kristine Scott, Steve von Rajcs and Ray Wolfe.

Guests: Adam Eventov, Frank Reyes and Arnold San Miguel.

Announcements: 1) Members were reminded that the Speaker series by IEEP presenting the 2018 Gubernatorial Candidates continues with Gavin Newsom speaking on Friday, June 30, 2017 from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Riverside City Hall.  John Chiang will speak on Thursday, July 13, 2017 from 11:30a.m.-1:30 p.m. in Rancho Cucamonga at the Universal Technical Institute.  More information and registration can be found at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2017-ie-speaker-series-ca-gubernatorial-candidates-tickets-32308808516 

M/S/P: Minutes from June 6, 2017

Lowell King introduced Tod Lipka, CEO, Step Up

Step Up, a 501(c)3 organization, began providing psychosocial rehabilitation and support in 1984, when a mother’s love for a family member caused her to take action to start a center offering services that could not be found anywhere else. The vision included a supportive environment with productive activities, including art therapies, supported employment training, coping skills, service coordination, and social connectedness.

Serious mental health issues are real, biologically-based disorders that are no one’s fault. The individuals who are seriously ill, imprisoned, impoverished, and punished by their untreated serious mental health issues don’t deserve to be ignored. The numbers are sobering: 50% of individuals who experience chronic homelessness are affected by serious mental health issues; hundreds of thousands are incarcerated due to acting out when untreated; thousands take their lives each year.

Step Up assists individuals experiencing mental health issues, and young adults who have experienced trauma and are at risk of developing mental health issues through 3 core strategies:

  • Member-driven supportive services
  • Employment training and placement opportunities
  • Permanent Supportive Housing

Funding for Step Up’s annual budget of $18M comes from HUD, various grants and county subsidies. They deliver compassionate support to people experiencing serious mental illness to help them stabilize, and integrate into the community giving them a sense of belonging, and permanent supportive housing.  Through partnerships, they 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.  The initial key is housing.  The successful Housing First program initiated in New York has a proven system that Step Up has adopted.  Traditionally the Homeless live in a cycle of surviving on the street, being admitted to hospitals, shelters, or jails and then going back to the street. The stress of surviving each day in this cycle puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the individual’s psychiatric and physical health. Shelters and transitional living programs often require people to pass sobriety tests and other hurdles before they can be considered for housing programs. Housing is considered a reward for good behavior instead of a tool to help stabilize a homeless-person’s mental health. This attitude cuts out the people who need the support the most, effectively punishing them for their conditions.  As the Homeless give up hope they are labeled as resistant to services. The expectation that the homeless will take initiative and seek out available services is well intended but misguided.  Services must come to the most disabled and then they must have a voice in decisions.

The success of Step Up in the Los Angeles area (with a 90% retention rate) prompted the County of San Bernardino and their Homeless Advisory Committee to reach out to them to assist our county. Step Up now has an office in San Bernardino with 20 street based employees.  The Step Up team first worked with the Sheriff’s Department getting to know the homeless in our area.  Many Homeless are already diagnosed with mental illness and receive support from public assistance, Social Security (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), but Step Up is prepared with professionals to all.

The transition for the homeless can take from a month to a year. Once stabilized, instruction in basic skills such as socialization, cooking, shopping, cleaning, budgeting and a wide range of job skills are taught.  Many obtain part time jobs, take Community College classes and participate in volunteer work.

Housing can be challenging but in the program landlords are guaranteed their rent on time and hands on support from the Step Up team who is at the ready to assist management and the new residents as they transition.

Local law enforcement reported that in Santa Monica 60% of their calls were related to the Homeless. These resources are needed elsewhere and as local law enforcement has stated “you can’t arrest out of homelessness”.

A Q & A period followed
Meeting adjourned at 8:30 a.m.