create / 2015

Shes Got Skills: From Homelessness to Jobs

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Downtown Women's Center

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.


In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Skid Row, Los Angeles

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Expand a pilot or a program

How will your proposal improve the following “Create” metrics?

  • Employment in the creative industries
  • Jobs per capita
  • Gini coefficient
  • Unemployment rates (and opportunities) for the formerly incarcerated (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to create.

DWC will make LA the best place to create by placing 10 women, who have histories of homelessness and trauma, into paid employment through our social enterprise, MADE by DWC. Through this program, women will have the opportunity to gain hands-on work experience, harness their own creativity in the workplace, and contribute to the diversification of LA’s business community.

In 2010, DWC launched its social enterprise to provide transferable skills-training to women who have the hardest time securing employment. Over the past five years, DWC has solidified its job-training program, providing women with 12-week courses in inventory management, retail sales, and café sales.

Last year, with funding from the LA2050 Grants Challenge, DWC established a coalition of socially conscious business partners, committed to employing women with histories of homelessness. As a result, DWC placed nearly 60 homeless and formerly homeless women into jobs. The program was an overwhelming success. DWC learned that for women who are job-ready, being placed into employment following a 12-week course or individualized case management sessions leads to long-term retention. However, for women who are not job-ready and are still coping with the effects of trauma, a more intensive and supportive program is essential. Thus, DWC will expand the current 12-week job training course into a 12-month transitional employment program, where women are employed in our two retail stores and compensated fairly.

In October of 2015, DWC will place its first cohort of five women into paid positions in our café and resale boutique. An additional five women will be placed in March of 2016. Women will be employed for 12 months in one of the following three positions: Café Associate, Resale Associate, and Inventory Associate. While working at DWC, participants will 1) receive industry-specific, high-quality training, 2) gain hands-on work experience, and 3) receive feedback on a monthly basis from a Case Manager.

Through this initiative, the aim is to prepare participants for future bridge and/or traditional employment opportunities. To secure future positions, participants will work with DWC’s Job Developer, who works closely with business partners in identifying opportunities and matching participants to those. Approximately three months before transitioning, each participant will be evaluated and scored against pre-determined job-readiness standards.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

DWC’s project is one of six participating in the Los Angeles Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise (LA:RISE). As such, an external evaluation is being conducted by Social Policy Research Associate (SPR) to examine the impact of transitional employment services on program participants’ employment, earnings, and criminal justice involvement outcomes by comparing their outcomes with a control group, comprised of individuals eligible for, but not receiving, transitional employment services.

The program will be evaluated using a random assignment research design, meaning eligible individuals will be placed completely at random into either a program group (and receive all above-mentioned services) or into a control group (and not receive the transitional employment services).

Comparative outcomes will be tracked, interpreted, and analyzed by SPR.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Education/training
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support