To change the plight of the poor, more than bricks and mortar must be used. We cannot expect significant change to occur unless an alternative is presented. This is a core value that is rooted within LifeSTEPS, and is a central idea that led Craig Gillett and Kenneth Robertson to found LifeSTEPS in 1996. Gillett, a licensed therapist and attorney, and Robertson, a seasoned affordable housing and commercial real estate expert, determined that access to affordable housing was only part of the solution in helping people overcome poverty.
There needed to be a strong case management presence on-site. This led to the LifeSTEPS service delivery model. Contracting with developers of affordable housing communities, LifeSTEPS began delivery of services to just a few sites, growing slowly during the initial phases.
In 2006 LifeSTEPS served 61 properties. Since that time the organization has grown nearly 300%. Perhaps what is most impressive about this growth is that it was the for-profit developers who sought out LifeSTEPS. They recognized the value and high standard of service LifeSTEPS delivered to residents, validating the LifeSTEPS model.
What has given even more strength to our on-site social worker case management approach has been Client Emergency Assistance. Providing short-term financial assistance, with required financial literacy education, has led to 87% of assistance recipients maintaining stable housing. This powerful combination of case management, emergency assistance and education has blended together to provide a growing number of affordable housing residents hope for the future.
Because a significant portion of LifeSTEPS’ revenue is derived from fee-for-service contracts with developers, donors are assured that 100% of their investment will go directly toward client services (and not a penny is allocated for administrative overhead). This model – with an overall administrative overhead of just 10%, and a client service to administrative personnel ratio of 13 to 1, has become a highly sustainable business model that reflects the guiding values of the organization.