Mesa Public Schools and Save the Family Partner to Help Families Step up to Independence

Save the Family’s newest program, Step Up to Independence ™ is just three years since launch, and so far, it’s been an incredible success. Step Up’s focus is on supporting families that are not traditionally classified as homeless under federal definitions, including families living in doubled-up situations, in motels or couch surfing. These families’ housing is far from secure, stable or conducive to healthy development. Thankfully, through a partnership with Mesa Public Schools – the largest school district in the state and home district for an estimated 1,100 homeless children – Save the Family is able to identify and refer these families to our innovative new program.

The Step Up program follows a 24-month timeline during which parents work closely with a case manager to identify and address goals focused on stabilization, increasing savings and building financial independence. Families in Save the Family’s Step Up program pay a low, flat rate for housing and are provided with access to all of Save the Family’s support services, including career development services, financial literacy, parenting and other life-skills classes, mental health and substance abuse support, and children’s services. Save the Family returns all fees that are collected from families during their time in Step Up – along with any additional savings accumulated – upon successful program exit. Families can tap this savings for housing or educational costs upon program exit.

The Career Center at our main campus provides computers; an ongoing job postings board; interview and career coaching; job-readiness workshops; 1:1 financial coaching; clothing/shoes; tools; and transportation assistance. We also know that the high cost of childcare can impede a family’s efforts to achieve economic mobility. To this end, we help families connect with community resources offering free or low-cost childcare and afterschool and summer programs for school-aged children. Additionally, we know that homeownership is a key pathway to economic mobility, so the program helps families focus on savings and building financial independence, linking families with organizations offering Individual Development Accounts (IDA), which they can use for education or homeownership.

One Step Up mom, Kesha, and her two daughters, are well on their way to self-sufficiency. They had been living “tripled up” with two other families before applying to the Step Up program.

Today they’re doing great, with daughter Da’Jana beginning her sophomore year this fall at Northern Arizona University, and mom well on her way to homeownership with a hefty down payment saved.

Another Step Up mom, Cristina, has seen her son open up and make big improvements at school as he participates in Save the Family’s Youth Enrichment and Achievement (YEA) program.

Cristina shared that her son has done so well that he has “graduated out” of his school program for children with severe behavior issues and will be attending mainstream school this fall. The Step Up program has offered both of these families – and other hardworking families across Mesa – the chance to stabilize and create a better path forward.

To date, eleven families have exited the program with 82% reducing debt, 37% increasing savings, and, 82% increasing wages. All of our exiting families have grown their savings over $2,000, and several families have been able to improve their credit scores by more than 200 points.

We are grateful for our partnership with Mesa Public Schools and the ability to help working families get back on their feet. To learn more about Step Up to IndependenceTM and to support programs helping homeless families rebuild their lives, please consider donating today at