About Us

Step Up’s caring staff work to help individuals reintegrate their daily lives as productive members of their community.

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.

Step Up’s Core Values

Hope • Wellness • Voice & Choice • Respect • Collaborative Relationships

  • HOPE – We believe all people have the capacity for positive growth and change. We use hope to inspire and motivate ourselves, our members, our colleagues, and our community.
  • WELLNESS – We believe in promoting a culture that supports healthy and fulfilling lives. We use a supportive environment to foster wellbeing for ourselves, our members, our colleagues, and our community.
  • VOICE AND CHOICE – We believe in the right to choose and be heard. We use voice and choice to create meaningful outcomes and empowerment for ourselves, our members, our colleagues, and our community.
  • RESPECT – We believe in promoting interactions that are non-judgmental, transparent, and authentic. We use respect to guide all of our words and actions with ourselves, our members, our colleagues, and our community.
  • COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS – We believe in forming partnerships to share resources, knowledge, and experiences. We use collaborative relationships to strengthen accomplishments for ourselves, our members, our colleagues, and our community.
Up commits to foster and advance an accessible, inclusive, diversem and equitable culture with the following promise. Advancing: We rise to elevate understanding, cultivate growth, and strengthen relationships towards continual progression. Access: We engage our community, advocate, and lift barriers to foster opportunities for all. Inclusion: We embrace individuality and social identities to ensure belonging for all, acknowledging and addressing the disparate or unequal impacts of systemic discrimination on historically marginalized groups. Diversit: We honor the rich diversity of our community and instill diverse perspectives through mutual understanding in all aspects of our organization. Equity: We recognize people don't start at the same place; we actively promote transparency and increase opportunities for growth, fairness, and equality by meeting individual needs.

Three Pillars of Service

Step Up’s vision and mission are delivered to individuals, including adults, Transition-Age Youth (TAY) between the ages of 18-28 years, and Veterans, through the design of its three pillars of service:

Step Up uses the Housing First model to connect individuals experiencing chronic homelessness to housing. Housing First is a proven approach in which all individuals experiencing homelessness are believed to be housing-ready.

Step Up creates opportunities for social connectedness through member-driven support groups, movie nights, cooking, community dinners, and gardening. In addition, there are classes offered such as art, yoga, computer basics, and money management.

Step Up’s vocational mission is that everyone who wants to work should work. Services include: Pre-vocational training, resume building, community job seeking and placement, in-the-field job coaching, work experience, focused training, and peer support training.

Overview of Step Up

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, which complicated and exacerbated 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 2021, Step Up had a over 1,850 permanent supportive housing units in developments and scattered sites in Santa Monica, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Pasadena and Orange, as well as in Monterey, San Bernardino, and Sacramento Counties, and the Southeastern US.

What started humbly in a warehouse shell in Santa Monica is now a thriving community agency with a staff of over 350 serving thousands of individuals annually — all free of charge.

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