Nonprofit

Downtown Women's Center

Over our 35-year history, the Downtown Women’s Center has created innovative programming focused on meeting the unique needs of homeless, formerly homeless, and extremely low-income women. When the Center first opened in 1978, it was the first and only resource for women living on Los Angeles’ Skid Row. In 1986, DWC opened the United States’ first permanent supportive housing for women, a program that has since been modeled as a national prototype. DWC now offers 119 units of permanent supportive housing among our two Residences to women who are primarily elderly, mentally ill, and/or physically disabled. More than 95% of the 500 women we have served through our Residence program have remained permanently housed. We have also scaled up our housing efforts beyond our own 119 apartments by piloting our Critical Time Intervention (CTI) model with clients housed off-site. Our CTI model, a proven evidence-based program launched in 2011, provides intensive case management for individuals transitioning out of chronic homelessness, ensuring that they have the support and access to resources they need to stay housed. DWC is also committed to sharing best practices; this April, our Director of Clinical Health Services and Lead CTI Case Manager will present DWC's CTI model at the Housing California Conference in Sacramento. As the need on Skid Row has continued to grow, DWC is grateful that we have been able to expand our programming and services, offered through our Day Center, Learning Center, two Residence locations, and on-site Medical and Mental Health Center. In 2012, DWC served 4,300 women with 90,000 meals, 23,000 showers, and 6,500 case management and counseling sessions. Along with our direct service, DWC contributes to national and local policy discussions and to best practice research in service provision for people experiencing homelessness. In 2001, DWC spearheaded the Downtown Women's Action Coalition, addressing women’s policy and research needs. The coalition has since performed several needs assessments for women on Skid Row. DWC’s well-reputed history is a testament to our mission and work in the community. DWC received a Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney Commendation in 1993, a Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Initiative Neighborhood Builder Award in 2007, and "Organization of the Year" by the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2011. Several other organizations have utilized DWC as a prototype for creating services for homeless women, including Friends In Deed in Pasadena, and organizations in San Francisco, San Jose, Amarillo, Texas; and New Orleans. Finally, we attribute our long-term success to the overwhelming community support and volunteer efforts that allow us to make the greatest impact with limited resources. DWC has been recognized as a Blue Ribbon Service Enterprise by the state of California, and our model has been developed into a case study in best practices in nonprofit volunteer engagement.

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  • CREATE ·2015 Grants Challenge

    Shes Got Skills: From Homelessness to Jobs

    DWC is seeking $100,000 from the Goldhirsh Foundation to support the expansion of our transitional employment program. DWC will place 10 women into paid employment through our two retail stores in downtown LA, for a period of 12 months, gaining hands-on work experience in customer service, food handling, drink making, inventory management, and retail.

  • CREATE ·2014 Grants Challenge

    We Are All LA: a socially conscious business network to end womens homelessness through jobs

    DWC leverages the power of for-profit/non-profit partnerships to work toward ending homelessness for women in Los Angeles.

  • 2013 Grants Challenge

    MADE by DWC: Education and Job Readiness for Homeless Women

    Women experiencing homelessness face complex, intersecting barriers on their paths to personal stability. Since 1978, the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) has been empowering women to break the cycles of homelessness and poverty by providing a wide array of services that can be tailored to each woman’s needs. The recent economic downturn has shown an increased demand for income and employment opportunities, and women on Los Angeles’ Skid Row are no exception. DWC, an agency that serves 4,300 homeless and extremely low-income women annually, is meeting that need by expanding our comprehensive Education and Job Readiness Program to serve the complex income and employment needs of homeless, formerly homeless, and extremely low-income women. With over three decades of experience, DWC is uniquely prepared to offer services for the hardest to employ women. Many of the women we serve may never be able to reenter the traditional workforce because of physical disabilities, mental health issues, ageing, or other barriers related to their experience of homelessness. Our programs allow these women to learn practical skills, gain a sense of purpose, and regain self-sustainability and earn income from alternative job opportunities. Our Education and Job Readiness Program is made possible through DWC’s on-site Learning Center, as well as our two MADE by DWC social enterprises, a café and gift shop opened in April 2011, and a resale boutique that opened in November 2012. Both businesses offer hands-on job training opportunities, as well as support the local economy in downtown Los Angeles while inviting community members to engage in ending homelessness through socially conscious shopping. SET to Create In 2013, we are building on the initial successes of our SET to Create product-development program allows participants to gain soft skills by participating in workshops, as they simultaneously gain practical skills in creating handcrafted products to industry standards. The MADE by DWC product line emphasizes sustainable goods and includes organic soaps and candles, jewelry, ornaments, and upcycled picture frames and bound journals. Women who complete an initial certification process are able to earn supplemental income, as DWC purchases their items for resale in our two stores. SET to Work With the recent opening of our second social enterprise, a resale boutique, we are able to offer even more hands-on job-training opportunities. This year, we are piloting an intensive 12-week job-readiness training program through both stores, which we will expand as we grow our businesses and community partners. SET to Work participants will develop marketable skills including inventory management, customer service, food handling, and administrative tasks. Each woman will receive one-on-one case management to set goals and address housing, sustenance, and health-related needs. Program graduates will then be connected to employment opportunities, including exclusive externships and entry-level positions designated by our growing network of corporate partners. 2013 Impact Our Education and Job Readiness Program will impact LA2050’s Income and Employment indicator by improving literacy, job readiness, employment, and employment retention among homeless and low-income women on downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row. This year, DWC plans to engage 925 women in services through our Learning Center; launching SET to Work and scaling up our SET to Create workshops will allow us to provide paths out of homelessness and poverty for more women. Our Holistic Approach DWC’s services and programs have been developed with an understanding that the women we serve continue to experience the barriers, trauma, and daily hardships correlated with homelessness and poverty. DWC is committed to meeting each woman’s needs and to providing a safe haven where women can access the resources they need to remove these barriers. All program participants have access to DWC’s full spectrum of supportive services, offered through our Day Center on Skid Row. Along with basic needs such as showers, meals, and clothing, DWC provides individualized counseling and case management; a Learning Center offering a variety of courses and computer access; an on-site health clinic offering extensive medical and mental health services; and referrals to housing and local community resources. All programs are also open to residents who live in our 119 units of permanent supportive housing.