Local Step Up On Second helps

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Posted December 11, 2008 by christinahanford in News - Features
The Santa Monica-based Step Up On Second, which provides help and support reintegrating into the community for chronically homeless individuals who have severe and persistent mental illness, has partnered with the City of Beverly Hills in an effort to help reduce that city’s homeless population.

“Beverly Hills has given us a grant for outreach and engagement of chronically homeless individuals,” said Tod Lipka, executive director of Step Up On Sec- ond. “Last year, [Beverly Hills] city staff came up to Step up On Second and really liked what they saw.

“This year is when we started the formal grant with the city for their program.”

Said Beverly Hills Mayor Barry Brucker, “Step Up On Second is a very well-respected organization with vast experience in providing housing for chronically homeless individuals. We’re pleased to be partnering with them on this vital project.”

The $90,000 grant is assisting a Step Up On Second outreach team in making contact with the approximately 35 chronically homeless people in Beverly Hills — many of whom are mentally ill and are living in public parks along Santa Monica Boulevard — and providing them with services, Lipka said.

“We have an outreach team based in Beverly Hills and they go out and engage the individuals who are homeless to develop relationships with them and begin to get them into services,” Lipka said. “Our team has been working hard this year and has been quite successful. It’s very exciting.”

The outreach team consists of outreach workers Ed Parker, Jamie Balli and two part-time peer advocates who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses, but have been through a peer advocacy training program.

Parker said that when the outreach team first appeared in Beverly Hills, “it was building up trusting relationships out there, first locating [the homeless], then introducing ourselves, then spending time with them.”

Today, “people smile when they see us coming,” he said. “They know we’re going to listen to them and if they need any kind of assistance, we’re able to provide it to them.”

So far, Step Up On Second has had quite a bit of success in Beverly Hills in a short period.

Eight of the chronically homeless have been placed in emergency shelters, one is in permanent housing, three have con- nected with family, and six have been placed in full service partnerships, which are funded under Proposition 63, Lipka said.

Full service partnerships provide intense case management to the homeless and are “really great because [the homeless] are beginning to get connected to services,” Lipka said. “They’re off the streets. It’s intensive.”

Four of the six chronically homeless enrolled in full service partnerships are enrolled in Step Up on Second’s services, funded through the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. The ultimate goal is to get these homeless permanently off the streets and into housing, he said.

“Homelessness is a geographic problem,” he points out. “It’s one that’s spread across the country. Communities have to contribute their fair share.”

Lipka praises the City of Beverly Hills for trying to address its own homeless population.

He is also glad that Beverly Hills sought the help of Santa Monica-based Step Up On Second. He noted that Santa Monica, with an estimated 1,500 homeless people roaming its streets on any given day, “is much further ahead than many other communities on addressing solutions to homeless because they’ve been doing it for a number of years.”