Small Sums make big change for homeless, unemployed Twin Cities residents


Small Sums has been helping people with unstable housing find their way to employment and independence since 2005. Many people face obstacles to employment that have relatively low costs: bus passes, license and test fees or basic tools and clothing. Small Sums was founded as a way to personally help people, one-on-one, to overcome these obstacles. 

To be eligible for Small Sums assistance, a person must have a verifiable job offer and be homeless or in unstable housing. A small staff and a simple intake process give Small Sums the ability to act quickly, sometimes delivering the aid within 48 hours. Greg Lawson, client intake coordinator, processes the initial application and verifies employment offers. Terre Thomas, client services coordinator, then works with the client to help them remove the basic barriers to beginning work. 

“Most social services don’t have any way to help people individually, like we do,” explains Executive Director Katherine Olson. The majority of Small Sums clients are referred from larger non-profit or government agencies. Through this process, Small Sums has helped hundreds of people gain employment and rebuild their lives. In the future, Olson hopes that the program will expand to having satellite offices with these organizations. These offices would maintain the quick response and streamlined pace which make the program successful.