STEP is excited to be starting work on a new program, Food Rescue! This program will enable us to pick up unwanted food from a local grocery store and distribute the product through our food shelf. This is a great opportunity to offer more healthful, fresh food options to our clients that utilize our services.
We are looking to build a crew of volunteers that are excited and dedicated to helping us make this program a success. Available shifts are Monday and Friday mornings, we are looking for warehouse volunteers to help unload, sort, organize and get rescue product out to food shelf clients. Volunteers would need to be able to lift boxes up to 50 pounds on a regular basis. Please contact Allison at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or if you are interested in volunteering.
March is Social Work month. At STEP social workers provide vital support to each client coming in with needs. We have four licensed social workers on staff who meet with clients to help determine how best STEP can serve them and what additional resources may be helpful to their specific situations. We believe that by meeting with clients regularly we build rapport, relationships and a sense of community. This allows a trusting environment to develop where we can offer assistance with other areas in clients lives.
Social workers in general help people overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges including poverty, discrimination, abuse, addiction, unemployment, educational problems, disability, and mental illness. Here at STEP we hope to help prevent and deal with crises when they arise and stay true to our mission of “Empowering Lives and Restoring Hope”. Want to know more about the amazing things social workers do? Check out the National Association of Social Workers.
March is MN FoodShare Month and it is the perfect time to help us restock the food shelf. Minnesota FoodShare is a program of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches (GMCC), and began its work in 1982, with a campaign advanced by congregations to restock food shelves in the 7-county Twin Cities Metropolitan Area.
Today, the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign brings together various Minnesota organizations, businesses, and places of worship to help keep 300 food shelves statewide stocked throughout the year.
When you donate in the month of March STEP will receive a partial match back from the GMCC making this a perfect time to give a monetary donation or host a food drive. STEP has a goal of raising a combination of 100,000 pounds of food and dollars this month. Help us reach our goal! Click the links for information on how to host a food drive, our donation hours and how you can donate now. Thank you for your support!
Spectranetics donated 546 pounds of food.
This young lady who collected 110 pounds of food for STEP for her 11th birthday!
Have you heard about the great food purchasing program we have in St. Louis Park called Fare For All?
It is a non-profit, community-supported program to purchase fresh produce, meat and more at a cost lower than the grocery stores! There is no need to register and is open to EVERYONE regardless of financial situation. The more people who participate, the more savings are passed on to customers.
Fare For All accepts cash, credit, debit, and EBT cards. Fare for All is a pop-up location in St. Louis Park at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (8115 State Hwy 7) one time each month. The next date is Wednesday January 18th. All of the SLP 2017 dates can be found here. We highly encourage you to give it a try and spread the word to your friends and neighbors!
January will also feature the Shoe Away Hunger bus. New and gently used shoes will be fore sale: kids shoes $2, adult shoes $5. They accept cash and credit. All proceeds help to fund “Good in the ‘Hood feeding Programs”. Shoe donations and monetary donations are also welcomed.
One of the important services the St. Louis Park Emergency Program provides is rent assistance if a St. Louis Park resident is in crisis. A medical situation or job loss can cause a temporary financial crisis that could lead to the loss of housing and have a permanent negative impact on that family.
Historically, STEP has received county and state funds for homelessness prevention. These funds are no longer available to STEP. For the first time in the history of this program, STEP ran out of money to use in May and June of this year, thus needing to turn away people who very well could become homeless without our assistance. The past two years were very challenging due to our budget limitations. We served very few households with the limited funds. The need is greater than the funding available.
In fiscal year 2011-12, STEP assisted 158 households with more than $118,000. The numbers have fallen since then. In fiscal year 2015-16, STEP assisted 37 households with less than $29,000.
STEP clients are faced with many challenges in trying to remain in housing. Affordable housing for people living in poverty is scarce. With the current rental market, more barriers have been put in place for people living on a fixed income or working in low-paying jobs.
Alarmingly, we have seen once affordable complexes be purchased by companies who raise rents and change rental criteria – often making people living in poverty ineligible to rent. This happened in St. Louis Park this year with Meadowbrook. STEP saw many of our clients displaced, facing consequences of paying much higher rent at another complex, becoming homeless or needing to move out of the community. St. Louis Park is the place they have called home.
In trying to find options for our displaced clients, I contacted many complexes STEP typically has worked with over the past 20 years. These are the rental criteria trends that our clients are faced with:
• Very low vacancy rate. The metro average is a 2 percent vacancy rate.
• Income must be at least two-and-a-half to three times the rent. STEP clients live at or below the poverty line; thus they would not be eligible for these units.
• No eviction history or eviction history must be more than three years old.
• No criminal background (even if the issue has been resolved, restitution paid or time served).
• Credit scores of 600 or more without a cosigner. Many living in poverty have a low credit score and do not meet this criteria.
• Do not accept Section 8 or other housing vouchers that make rent affordable for the tenant.
• Average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,100, and a one-bedroom apartment is $900, making renting very unaffordable with rent consuming all or most of their income.
We hear every day from our clients how much they love living in St. Louis Park and how much they appreciate the schools. Many have lived here more than seven years. It is their home. When STEP has ample funds to help prevent homelessness, we can be more proactive and help more households; our neighbors can still call St. Louis Park their home.
In order to ameliorate the unmet need of homelessness prevention in St. Louis Park, the Park Nicollet Foundation has generously committed to match up to $15,000 in donation to STEP’s emergency housing assistance fund. The city of St. Louis Park has also joined in the challenge by committing $15,000. Both contributions would be used to prevent homelessness in St. Louis Park over the next three years. With full community support, we can turn these two pledges into $45,000 – ensuring scores of families stay in their homes. There is a child who just finished the school year in a St. Louis Park school. The community’s support can help determine if that child lives in a shelter in another community or returns to their school in the fall.
Anyone interested in joining this challenge can donate to STEP and designate their gift to “emergency assistance.” Donations can be made at STEPslp.org or sent to 6812 W. Lake St., St. Louis Park, MN 55426.
Julie Lapointe is program manager and social worker for the St. Louis Park Emergency Program.