November 2022. It is a cold, blustery, winter day in Greater Cleveland. Outside, there is snow on the ground. And yet, without a doubt, individuals and families are suffering.
Some are dressing in layers because they can’t afford heat. Others are sleeping on the street because they have nowhere else to go. They can’t afford a security deposit or monthly rent.
The 2022 Needs Assessment illustrates why Step Forward is so needed throughout Cuyahoga County:
Researchers found nearly one in five Cuyahoga County residents live below the poverty threshold; One in three of those people live in the city of Cleveland
Out of the 89,937 children under the age of six who live in Cuyahoga County, about 23,418 (more than 20 percent) of them live below the poverty level
Out of the 70 responses surveyors received, about 40 percent of people indicated they, at one time, had to choose whether to buy food or pay utility bills or buy food or pay for medicine/medical care
In 1964, Step Forward was established in response to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. For the last 60 years, the agency has been devoted to helping low-income individuals and families address immediate needs and build long-term skills to transform their lives for generations to come through early childhood education programs, adult skills training, personal and professional development and the Home Energy Assistance Program.
Now, even more people are needing help. With rising inflation and higher costs for everything including gas, medications and groceries, a record amount of people have been turning to Step Forward for assistance. HEAP, for example, received more than 26,000 phone calls from people trying to make Winter Crisis appointments within the first three weeks of the program being open. That is 60 percent more phone calls than HEAP received in
the same time period in 2021. Step Forward has also learned poverty is spreading into Cleveland’s suburbs more and more. Researchers with the Center for Community Solutions revealed the ten cities that saw the highest increases in the number of people in poverty, including North Olmsted, South Euclid, Brook Park, Euclid, Richmond Heights, Warrensville Heights, Solon, Berea, Oakwood Village and Bedford.
Step Forward is committed to our mission and that is to propel education attainment and economic self-sufficiency for multiple generations throughout Cuyahoga County. Now, we’re asking our supporters and community partners to “step forward” and help as well. We want to continue building our ongoing legacy and help as many individuals and families as possible.
Why you should donate to Step Forward
1. You’re helping provide a quality Early Childhood Education to income-eligible children
Step Forward offers Early Head Start and Head Start. Early Head Start serves pregnant mothers and children ages six weeks through three-years old. Early Head Start centers provide coaching, nutritional counseling, childbirth education, newborn and parenting classes as well as a nurturing and developmentally enriching environment for young children. The sites also provide necessary baby and toddler items like formula and diapers.
When the child turns three, they are eligible for Head Start. The program promotes kindergarten readiness through a love for learning. The children follow a curriculum and receive individualized assessments.
Step Forward operates ten facilities located throughout Cuyahoga County. We also offer “Home Base Head Start,’ in which a qualified home visitor goes to the family. The visitor meets with the parent and child for 90 minutes per week. It is a parent-driven curriculum so families can prepare their child for kindergarten without having to go anywhere. Home Base Head Start performs ongoing assessments to track the child’s development throughout the school year.
The agency is always accepting new students. To enroll, click here.
2. You’re supporting the personal development of Cuyahoga County individuals
Step Forward offers a Baby and Mommy Support Program, where expectant mothers are connected with resources and services, and they learn how to cope with stress, breastfeeding, and postpartum depression.
Step Forward also offers income tax support. In early 2022, 93 percent of clients who turned to our agency for personal tax income help qualified for an income tax refund.
The agency provides counseling, family development, parenting groups, anger management and domestic violence assistance. In fact, from September 2021 to August 2022, records show 91 percent of clients who enrolled in Step Forward’s counseling services completed individual service plans.
For more information, individuals can visit of our four Neighborhood Opportunity Centers, which are located in Middleburg Heights, Maple Heights, Glenville and near downtown Cleveland.
3. You’re helping adults learn and get connected with employers
Step Forward is proud to offer job training and employment opportunities to adults. The agency provides customer service training, Microsoft Office software training and digital literacy certifications, a “How to think like a CEO” workshop and more.
In 2021, 100 percent of clients who secured employment with Professional Development Services maintained employment for 90 days. More than 90 percent of the clients who completed our five-day job readiness workshop were certified in financial literacy. Nearly 90 percent of the clients who completed Microsoft Office software training were referred to other Professional Development services training programs. About 88 percent of clients enrolled in our Adult Basic Literacy Skills Workshop showed improved literacy skills. All of the services offered are free to eligible Cuyahoga County residents.
Those interested in making an intake appointment can call 216-651-5188.
4. You’re helping to provide emergency assistance to people who need it most
Step Forward recognizes it is nearly impossible to set long-term goals when facing immediate needs. That is why our agency offers help with rental, utility and internet payments, clothing and food insecurity, transportation barriers, childcare payments, car repairs, and more.
Those who are looking for emergency assistance can contact our Neighborhood Opportunity Centers to make an appointment with Step Forward’s Family Development Program. Family Development Specialists will complete an intake and assessment to identify barriers and create a plan to support the individual or family.
Your gift matters! You can help make a difference in people’s lives right here at home in Cuyahoga County.