By Marisol Rascon
53,196 - this is the current count of homeless people in the greater Los Angeles area according to LAHSA and according to the 2017 AHAR report 34 in 10,000 people experienced homelessness to some capacity in California last year.
Seeing a homeless person at the freeway exit or as we drive through the back end of our big city is unfortunately a daily reality for Angelenos. As a result many of us have become familiar with that uncomfortable moment that inspires us to pause and reach for change, make a silent effort to avoid eye contact, or gesture “I’m sorry”. It can be overwhelming to be so close to human suffering and not know how to help or if what we do even makes a difference. In this big city there are big hearts and there are big problems - so how can we bring the two together?
I’d like to highlight an organization that is close and dear to Golden Sol’s heart, the Downtown Women’s Center. The DWC is amazing for many reasons but the fact that it was the first center in LA to exclusively provide services to homeless women and was founded by a woman who was inspired by a woman makes it even that much more special!
Jill Halverson was working as a social worker when she was inspired by her friendship with Rosa who was homeless and was using her cooking as an exchange for night time security while she slept. She recognized that women experience very specific types of vulnerabilities in the streets and her compassion led the beginning of the DWC in 1978, implementing many services and programs that to this day help women feel safe and get back on their feet.
Some of the services DWC provides are:
Permanent Housing Program
Health and Wellness Program
Community Based Housing Program
Workforce Development Program
In addition they provide meals, clothing, and hygiene products daily. One of the unique things about the center is that women will find safety without judgement here. DWC will educate them on all the program options available but will not refuse food or access to the day center to anyone who is not ready to register. Each woman has a couple weeks before they are required to make that choice and though it may seem like a challenge for the actual organization to have this leniency it’s admirable that they give this very important option to the women who are afraid and seeking support and privacy. For women domestic abuse, mental illness, lack of affordable housing, and unemployment are amongst the top reasons for homelessness. Many of them have been stripped of choice and safety throughout their lives and the DWC does an exceptional job of providing a safe haven in the middle of the chaos of skid row.
For the last 5 years Golden Sol has been honored to provide lunch to the women of DWC on the first Sunday of every month. To date we have prepared about 10,000 lunches and have donated hundreds of bags of clothing and household goods. We intend to continue to do something tangible to improve the homelessness crisis and. It’s an incredible feeling to offer tenderness to a woman that perhaps has not felt kindness in a while. We always like to see new helpers so if you are interested in joining us to volunteer email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the amazing work the Downtown Women’s Center does please visit their website.