City of Salinas Staff meets Fernando Torres Gil and Step Up

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News Date: 
March 22, 2018
Supportive Housing on Colorado Street in Santa Monica

City of Salinas Planning Manager Anastacia Wyatt met with Fernando Torres Gil, Board Member and Tod Lipka, Executive Director, of Step Up on Second. Step Up's mission is to deliver compassionate support to people experiencing serious mental illness to help them recover, stabilize, and integrate into the community. Through dynamic partnerships, Step Up provides positive social and learning environments, vocational training, permanent supportive housing opportunities, and recovery services to empower individuals to cultivate lives of hope and dignity. Step Up exercises innovative leadership and advocacy to increase public understanding, support and acceptance of all people living with mental illness. Step Up also has programming focusing on the specific needs of Veterans and Transition Age Youth. Step Up was founded in 1984 and has been in continuous operation since that time. What began in a small warehouse in Santa Monica has grown to the nationally recognized model for not only providing, but also scaling, service provision for individuals with mental health conditions, especially those experiencing homelessness and chronic homelessness. Step Up overall business plan is to partner with communities all over California and in other communities in other states who want to holistically address the issues surrounding homelessness in their communities.

Planning Manager Anastacia Wyatt with Fernando Torres Gil and Tod Lipka of Step Up

Fernando Torres Gil is a native of Salinas and son of migrant farm workers. Dr. Torres earned his A.A. in Political Science at Hartnell Community College (1968), a B.A. with honors in Political Science from San Jose State University (1970), and earned an M.S.W. (1972 and Ph.D. (1976) in Social Policy, Planning and Research from the Heller Graduate School in Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He grew up in Salinas’ public housing. He credits his living in a Housing Authority development and the case management and assistance his family received early in his life for his ability to succeed. His drive to give back to the community and Country led him to his profession as a professor and four time Presidential Appointee. Dr. Torres Gil was the first Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Administration on Aging within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and appointed in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter. He was appointed (with Senate Confirmation) by President Clinton as the first-ever U.S. Assistant Secretary on Aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in 1993 and served in the position until 1997. Torres-Gil was also an appointee of President Obama as Vice Chair of the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that reports to the Congress and White House on federal matters related to disability policy. While in D.C., he also served as Staff Director of the U.S. House Select Committee on Aging under Congressman Edward R. Roybal. Dr. Torres provides important leadership in philanthropy and non-profit organizations as a board member of the AARP Foundation, and he is a former board member of the California Endowment, National Steinbeck Center and the Los Angeles Chinatown Service Center.

Dr. Torres Gil and Step Up on Second are interested in bringing expertise and resources to Salinas for homeless services based on their mission and utilizing HUD best practices. The City visited four of Step Up’s permanent supportive housing developments in Santa Monica. All developments provide on-site laundry, units with bathrooms and small kitchen equipment and full meal services. All developments are located close to light rail, bus lines and walkable neighborhoods rich in services and industry.