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What is a Neighborhood Opportunity Center?

East, West, South and Central, near downtown Cleveland. These are the four locations people can find Step Forward’s Neighborhood Opportunity Centers.

Neighborhood Opportunity Centers, otherwise known as the agency’s NOCs, are sort of like satellite centers.

“They are purposely set within the communities we feel are most needed,” Kimberly Marshall, a Family Development Specialist at Step Forward’s Southeast NOC, said. We work within the community to help those in the community with mostly short-term services to meet their basic need and get them back on their feet.”

At each location, interested clientele can get information and apply for emergency assistance, personal and professional development. They can also get information about Step Forward’s Home Energy Assistance.

Marshall said rental assistance has been the most sought after assistance since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Without a doubt,” she added. “Every day, the phone is ringing for rental assistance and for help with HEAP and PIPP.”

PIPP stands for Step Forward’s Percentage of Income Payment Plan. The service helps eligible households pay to maintain their gas and electric services throughout the year. The assistance helps pay the utility company a percentage of the household income, making energy bills affordable year-round. If the monthly payments are made on-time and in-full, overages and the rest of the month’s bills are forgiven.

Step Forward also offers assistance for additional family needs and emergency support, including food, child care, car repair assistance and more. People interested in receiving such assistance can submit a request for service online to be connected to one of the four NOCs.

Marshall is one of several Family Development Specialists. She has been in the business for more than 30 years.

“I enjoy helping others,” she said. “My biggest high, if you will, is when I see someone who was struggling and then they succeed.”

Marshall keeps in touch with a lot of her former clients. She urges everyone to reach out if they need help.

“We’re here to help you help yourself,” she insisted. “We have the services. I love when people come in to utilize those services. We just want to help get people back on their feet.”

Marshall explained she can help people with immediate needs. She often refers clients to other programs within the agency.

“The ultimate goal is self-sufficiency,” she concluded.

If you would like to visit one of Step Forward’s NOCs, find a location nearest you.

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