Homelessness is a major problem across the United States, and one organization working to help those impacted by it in the Phoenix area is UMOM.
Melissa Steimer is chief development officer of UMOM, and she stopped by the FM Evolution podcast to discuss how the organization helps those without homes and utilizes facilities management.
UMOM been around since 1964 and stood for United Methodist Outreach Ministries, according to Steimer. It started as a soup kitchen through the church, though it is no longer directly related to the church.
It is faith supported, though, and that is a community that helps UMOM.
In 1964, UMOM started to serve the homeless and then shelter them, according to Steimer.
“Since then, we’ve really grown to become a comprehensive shelter, and now housing organization,” Steimer said.
UMOM works to prevent and end homelessness, but it also offers services to help care for unsheltered women from the ages 18-86.
It also offers the only crisis shelter in Maricopa County that handles minors that need a safe place to go, according to Steimer.
“We’re running a lot of different programs. We’re broad,” she said.
Another service UMOM is involved with is running affordable housing communities across the county.
The nonprofit organization maintains a variety of facilities, with it being so large. It takes lots of coordination. Steimer said UMOM had to do it by trial and error through the years.
The campus that houses the main offices and family shelter is 7.5 acres at North 32nd Street and East Van Buren Street in Phoenix. That property is where the largest part of services are run out of. It requires a pretty large maintenance staff to help support multiple properties where services are provided, according to Steimer.
One of the biggest challenges for UMOM is that someone is always waiting for shelter. Right now there are 130 people that are sitting on a waiting list waiting for a space with UMOM, Steimer said. They wait about 10 weeks to get into shelter.
When they get into a safe shelter, Steimer said, UMOM wants to provide services and security to stop their homelessness and get them back out into the community.
UMOM runs or manages over 500 units of affordable housing, that’s another seven buildings.
The nonprofit developed these properties and outsourced management, including maintenance to an organization that does it for many of UMOM’s properties, Steimer said. Two more are coming online next year, which will put the nonprofit at over 600 affordable housing units.
Steimer herself has always been in nonprofit management. She said her career has been 22+ years in some form of nonprofit management leadership, mainly around fundraising.
Before she came to UMOM, Steimer said she sought out an organization that was a good steward of dollars, with great leadership, and trying to solve community issues.
Someone eventually recommended her to UMOM. She went and talked about what would become her current position with the CEO. And the second she met the CEO, Steimer said she was sold.
The help isn’t over once someone leaves UMOM’s shelter. Steimer said UMOM works to get folks back into the community and make them feel welcome.
Many live paycheck to paycheck, and one unforeseen circumstance puts them on the street. This is why another area UMOM helps with is preventing homelessness in the first place, by providing resources to keep people on the edge of eviction out of shelters in the first place.
For those that want to help, Steimer said UMOM offers a variety of different opportunities. UMOM sees 9,000 individual volunteers a year, and they all help in a diverse range of different ways.
“We’re thankful for that,” Steimer said.
There are lots of opportunities to get plugged in to.
“If you only have a little bit of time, we’ll find something,” Steimer said.
One example is volunteers read stories to shelter kids once a week for a couple hours. Kids get to go back to their room with multiple books. UMOM even got a library started to help these kids feel normal.
When it comes to favorite projects at UMOM, Steimer said one near the top of her list is the Helpings Café. It started in 2014 as a sort of social enterprise, offering great food and service.
Steimer said it’s open for breakfast and lunch, with catering available. And anything someone purchases goes back to the mission.
She wants customers to know if they bought a cup of coffee today from the café, it helped purchase a backpack for a child in need or school supplies.
“Someone has a meal because you bought that muffin,” Steimer said.
In total, Steimer said UMOM serves around 8,600 individuals every year. It’s the largest provider of these services with all the different shelters in Maricopa County. Many homeless individuals who end up at a UMOM shelter do successfully exit.
And preventing homelessness is just as important as helping someone once they become homeless.
For more information on volunteering, click here.