Celebrations at the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) are a very important part of our culture. They provide time for us to honor the dedication and hard work it takes to manage personal challenges to overcome systemic homelessness. DWC is the only organization in Los Angeles exclusively serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness. We envision a Los Angeles with every woman housed and on a path to personal stability. Our mission is to end homelessness for women in greater Los Angeles through housing, wellness, employment, and advocacy.
MADE by DWC is an employment social enterprise created by the DWC to meet our mission in ending homelessness for women through supportive job-training and employment. Our Transitional Jobs Program offers women opportunities to earn an income while gaining job skills through hands-on work experience, workshops, and additional support services.
Last week we celebrated our 2022/2023 transitional job trainees with a graduation ceremony. Together we marked the completion of 300 hours of job training within our Café & Gift Boutique, Resale Boutique, Production Studio, Community Kitchen, Donations Depratment, and Health Outreach where they train alongside staff learning multiple skills within each specific area. They also attend multiple educational workshops from computer skills to financial literacy, and several sessions of job searching alongside their employment specialist. Four of our thirty-two graduates opened the ceremony by sharing their journey with our invited guests of family, friends, program funders, employers, and collaborators. They received support from their trainers and employment specialists, and the added opportunity to build relationships and support networks within their cohort of peers. They shared significant increases in self-confidence and new levels of comfort in moving forward on their career-path journeys.
This celebration was another reminder of the importance of our programs and supportive services provided across DWC. As our graduate Wendy shared, “Any goal is attainable, no matter how big the project is, I can accomplish it so long as I work on it little by little and then the job won’t feel as hard. Also, the popup shops helped me understand that I have to go out there and promote who and what I am and my goal to open my business.” Overcoming obstacles like these was the overarching message we were hearing, as Robbie concurred, “It taught me that I could do anything when I put my mind to it.” Crystal expressed her takeaway as, “Picking up the knowledge and learning process for my future employment on my next job in retail.” Maureen reminisced of a shyer quieter version of herself walking into the Downtown Women’s Center not knowing what blessing lied ahead. She ended her speech with, sharing that after graduating “I went from a quiet, keeps to herself type of person to someone who’s not as afraid to talk to people, from a trainee to a Trainer. It’s only because of my time here that it was easier for me to stand here today and talk to all of you.”
Our Transitional Jobs Program creates an impact on several different levels in addition to career development. For some, it has provided confidence and courage in taking the next steps toward their educational aspirations. For others, it’s about building a personal support network that will allow them to nurture one another on their career paths. As shared by our café associate Janice, “I was homeless sleeping in my car, and this program gave me courage to come out of my shell and out of homelessness.” Sixty percent of this cohort of trainees lacked permanent housing during their four months of training. During the program, 66% of those unhoused found housing.
Our recent countywide Women’s Needs Assessment showed 67 percent of women had an educational attainment at the high school level or beyond. Nearly 30 percent of women experiencing homelessness were working for pay, trading goods or services with others, or both. Among those not currently working, two-thirds identified as having a disability. Through our Transitional Jobs Program, women are provided a safe and supportive environment to remove barriers. Our workspaces provide the opportunity for women to focus on developing necessary job skills and focus on developing career goals. This employment model for unhoused women allows us to continue to tear down barriers through a supportive environment, building self-esteem and acknowledgement of the hidden talents of every woman we serve.
All of this is made possible through you, our customers, volunteers, funders, collaborators, and amazing staff, who are all driven by the possibilities within our community of Skid Row. Thank you for joining us on this journey and for your participation in changing lives!