STEP UPP for Those in Need


STEP UPP, an acronym for Service Travel Encourage Progress for Underrepresented People in Poverty, serves both locally as well as in Sacramento and San Francisco. Their mission is just as their title states, to advocate for underrepresented people in poverty, with a focus on homelessness/houselessness.

Each year during spring break STEP UPP takes their 10 or so volunteers down to San Francisco or Sacramento (they alternate each year) to collaborate with multiple organizations that serve the community. This year they are collaborating with Hospitality House in San Francisco. However, during this 6 day stretch STEP UPP will generally visit and assist multiple shelters and organizations, doing anything from stripping and cleaning beds to prepping and serving meals.

During this trip volunteers stay at churches in the district in which they are working. The churches generously offer either free or discounted accommodations to the volunteers. The volunteers normally sleep on the floor in sleeping bags during this week. Director Irene Gonzalez says that this is often a very eye-opening experience for volunteers to sleep on the hardwood floor with just their sleeping bags, as it emulates a partial reality of the homeless/houseless experience. “After the trip it definitely changed the way I viewed things, I cared about the issue already but it just pushed me to care more…[it] made me realize I want to do more than just volunteer…”, Irene reminisced about her first trip with STEP UPP.

During their fall 2015 trip, Irene said volunteers were much changed by their interactions with the clients they served. At one of their church stays during this trip, she said the volunteers ended up sharing food and stories with individuals outside the church. Irene says STEP UPP serves as an important function in communities as an avenue of breaking down stigmas and stereotypes about people in poverty.

Locally, the trio of directors (Irene Gonzalez, Victor Perez and Santa Herrera) serve organizations that need help with developing more assistance for people in poverty. Some of the organizations in the past have been: RAVEN Project, Betty Kwan Chinn Outreach, and Food for People. Currently, STEP UPP is in the works to collaborate with Arcata House to teach computer skill classes for the residents at the Arcata Bay Crossing apartments.