live / 2018

Make LA the first city where everyone can live free from abuse

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Activation Challenge by FreeFrom

FreeFrom is working to revolutionize LA’s response to the epidemic of gender-based violence by making sure every survivor has the financial resources to heal, rebuild and live free from abuse.

Please describe the activation your organization seeks to launch.

1 in 4 women will suffer severe domestic violence in their lifetime, and domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women and children in LA. Only if survivors can afford to leave, rebuild and heal, can we break the nexus between domestic violence, poverty and homelessness. FreeFrom is working transform the domestic violence movement in LA by scaling our robust and holistic financial security program to equip every survivor with the tools and services to build long-term safety.

Which of the live metrics will your activation impact?​

  • Number of households below the self-sufficiency standard
  • Rates of homelessness
  • Resilient communities

Will your proposal impact any other LA2050 goal categories?

  • LA is the best place to CREATE

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

  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles

How will your activation mobilize Angelenos?

  • Advocate for policy
  • Digital organizing or activism
  • Trainings and/or in-person engagements
  • Create new tools or technologies for greater civic/political engagement
  • Encourage businesses to change practices
  • Influence individual behavior
  • Shift countywide cultural understandings of domestic violence, its impact and how to end it.

Describe in greater detail how your activation will make LA the best place to live?

Here in LA, 460,000 women will experience severe domestic violence in their lifetimes. The current domestic violence movement focuses on emergency services, but not on the long-term financial security needed to ensure permanent safety of survivors and their families. FreeFrom is changing this paradigm. Through our compensation, credit repair and small business entrepreneurship programs, we work with survivors to create the financial security needed to rebuild their lives free from abuse.

Financial insecurity is the number one reason survivors stay in and/or return to abusive relationships. Survivors who leave often do so without the financial means to rebuild their lives (e.g., securing housing, childcare, transportation, etc.), making domestic violence the leading cause of homelessness among women and children nationwide. The 2017 Point in Time Homeless Count found that 50% of homeless women in LA have experienced domestic violence, and the number of homeless individuals with histories of domestic abuse has more than doubled since 2016. If we are to end domestic violence in LA, we must help survivors rebuild financially. Only then can we achieve long-term change.

In 2017, FreeFrom piloted our Small Business and Financial Repair program through partnerships with more than a dozen domestic violence organizations in Los Angeles as well as the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles and the Housing and Community Investment Department of Los Angeles.

Through this pilot, we worked with 24 survivors to launch their own small businesses. Of those businesses, 100% yielded a profit within their first month of sales. Ten months later, not one of our clients has returned to the abuse. Instead, they are securing safe housing, building their credit, investing in healing services for themselves and their children and saving for their futures. Ventures started by our clients include seamstress services, catering, jewelry design, cleaning services, hair styling, and handcrafted bath and body products, among others.

Tailored to the unique needs of survivors, our services cover the following topics: protecting, repairing and building credit; entrepreneurship as a source of income; business planning; finance and accounting; sales and marketing training; logo design and branding; mentorship; counseling; childcare and self-care; confidence-building and access to seed funding.

With the support of LA2050, FreeFrom wants to expand our program to serve survivors in every domestic violence shelter in LA County and build a city in which shelters are not the only solution but rather a stepping stone to safe lives centered around abundance, community and healing. This the Los Angeles we could be. This is a Los Angeles that everyone can live in.

How will your activation engage Angelenos to make LA the best place to live

FreeFrom’s activation engages survivors, service providers, local government and the general public through trainings, media campaigns and advocacy. Over the next 2 years, we will use the following strategies to make LA a place where survivors can afford to heal, rebuild, and access their full potential:

Conduct a study on the effectiveness of financial services for survivors in reducing rates of abuse and length of shelter stays, making LA a pioneer in the work to end the nexus between poverty, abuse and homelessness.

Triple the number of survivors FreeFrom is able to serve directly.

Train every domestic violence shelter and service provider in LA on financial repair for survivors, making economic justice a key factor of the work done to end domestic violence.

Partner with community groups as well as organizations working with LGBTQ, formerly incarcerated, and trafficking survivors to make sure we are reaching individuals who are not accessing traditional domestic violence services.

Create online resources to reach the more than 88% of survivors who do not have access to the shelter system in LA.

Promote thriving, women-owned ventures and advocate for a living wage for survivors of domestic violence. In April 2018, FreeFrom is launching a social enterprise in Los Angeles that will exclusively sell products handmade by survivors as well as employ survivors to run operations for a living wage of $20 / hour. The goal of this venture is to foster survivor wealth.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your activation.​

FreeFrom defines success as effectively implementing a new framework for domestic violence prevention and intervention in LA County. Our goal is to reach survivors across the spectrum of gender-based violence to form a new movement focused on survivor wealth and healing.


The number of domestic violence shelters in LA trained on how to implement our economic justice model in their work with clients;

The number of domestic violence shelters that make credit repair and income building a key part of their work;

The length of time it takes program clients to secure permanent housing;

Increases in income, savings, credit scores, sense of safety and confidence among program clients;

The number of clients who build more wealth than we invest in them;

Development of digital and non-digital remote services for un-sheltered survivors (e.g., interactive web-based resources, phone consultations)(See FreeFrom’s online self-help compensation tool for an example -;

Number of survivors who utilize remote services to build financial security;

Number of survivors who launch small businesses through our program;

Amount of profit these small businesses yield;

Number of survivors making a living wage through entrepreneurship and/or other employment;

Number of survivors participating in FreeFrom’s online store;

Government-level implementations of new approaches to economic justice for survivors.

Where do you hope this activation or your organization will be in five years?

“When I first started this program, I was very unsure of my future. I was depressed, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to survive as a single mom with two kids. Fast forward to today, 6 months later, I launched my cleaning business and I am making more money than I have ever made since arriving in the US. And I’ve been here for almost a decade! Also, for the first time ever, I am saving! I am saving so much! I don’t know for what yet but I know FreeFrom will help me figure it out. I never thought this day would come and I never thought that my own work, skills, and passion would get me here. But here I am and I am happy and so, so proud.”

  • Maria, FreeFrom client

FreeFrom’s ultimate goal is to create a city that no longer needs us. We envision a Los Angeles where every survivor has the financial freedom to choose safety. An LA where every survivor has access to services that are stepping stones to financial independence. Where every survivor can afford to heal and access their full creative potential, and no one has to choose between staying in an abusive situation and homelessness.

One of the greatest obstacles to creating change in the domestic violence movement is a lack of up-to-date, accurate data on domestic violence, its impact and the efficacy of current approaches to solving the issue. As we expand our program to serve survivors in all of Los Angeles, we are creating a study that will track the differences in outcomes for survivors who participate in our programs those that do not. Through this study, we aim to bolster support for our financial services and economic justice, increasing the availability of these services to survivors and reducing the time that survivors stay in shelter before securing permanent housing and employment.

As we grow this model within LA’s domestic violence shelters, FreeFrom will also create robust remote services in the form of applications and web-based resources for survivors who do not have access to the shelter system or other domestic violence-related services. Within the next 5 years, we aim to complete our work in Los Angeles, and expand our program to cities and states throughout the US.

In January 2018, FreeFrom launched its groundbreaking Online Self-Help Compensation Tool that survivors throughout California can access on our website to learn how to pursue compensation for the abuse they have suffered. Once users answer a few questions regarding their experience and the forms of compensation they are seeking, the tool generates detailed information on the user’s options for compensation and how to pursue those options within their jurisdiction. Within 48 hours of launching the tool, 25,000 individuals logged on to learn their options for compensation. Within two months, 60,000 individuals accessed the tool. We aim to make the tool available to survivors in all 50 states within the next 3 years.

Throughout this time, we will cull data from the compensation tool to create a state-by-state advocacy agenda that speaks directly to survivors’ greatest needs and priorities when seeking justice. Our current advocacy priorities include working with credit card companies to create an easier process for survivors to claim abuse-related identity fraud, and ensuring disability insurance for survivors who are forced to leave work as a result of the abuse.

Over the past year, FreeFrom has joined city-wide initiatives to increase the rights of low to middle-income entrepreneurs, women and survivors. We have partnered with the LA Street Vendors Coalition and Public Counsel for the City of LA to legalize street vending in order to increase the rights of women entrepreneurs who rely on their businesses as their primary source of income, and the Home Cooks Initiative to increase food vendors’ ability to make their products without the cost of a commercial kitchen. In 2018, we also became a community partner for the United State of Women in Los Angeles. As we expand we will continue partnering with other organizations working in the fields of homelessness, gender justice and LGBTQ+ rights, economic justice and legal aid reform to address domestic violence as an intersectional issue that impacts people from various backgrounds.

As we continue to develop our advocacy work, we intend to create spaces for organizing work for the clients in our programs, as they continue building their businesses, their financial stability and a sense of well-being for themselves and their children. It is our goal to redirect the current movement to ultimately be led and shaped by survivors and their voices.