Being a last-minute shopper for Mother’s Day is not unusual. But instead of buying those flowers on the corner or chocolates from the convenience store, try shopping for a purpose.

MADE by DWC is a purpose-driven social enterprise created by the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) to empower women in Los Angeles to break the cycle of chronic homelessness through employment.

One hundred percent of purchases go toward empowering women transitioning out of homelessness.

Joe Colletti, PhD., in last July’s “Policy Insights” article (homeessstrtegy.com) notes that “Black women are unequivocally overrepresented among women dying while homeless in the County and City of Los Angeles.”

Colletti’s report is based on publicly accessible data from the County of Los Angeles Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner related to homelessness.

Black women represented only 9 percent of the total number of women living in Los Angeles County during 2018 and 2019. However, during the same period, 30 percent or 100 of the 337 women who died while homeless in Los Angeles County were Black.

In hopes of changing that statistic and the futures of women living on the streets, MADE by DWC is offering a Mother’s Day Gift Guide at https://madebydwc.org which offers a variety of gifts — from soaps to sunglasses.

MADE by DWC is a social enterprise operated by the Downtown Women’s Center to provide job training and transitional employment in product and retail environments for women transitioning out of homelessness. 

By purchasing from MADE by DWC’s signature line of products, buyers are directly contributing toward ending women’s homelessness in Los Angeles.

MADE by DWC enables women to earn an  income while gaining job skills and experience at its two brick-and-mortar locations in downtown. 

The Resale Boutique is located at 325 S. Los Angeles St. and offers a curated selection of new, gently-used, vintage and designer pieces. 

The cafe and gift boutique at 438 S. San Pedro St. is both a coffee shop and clothing store, offering handcrafted, lines of all-natural, hand-poured soaps, soy candles, and bath salts.

“We receive donations from individuals and from corporations,” said Lindsay O’Brien, the MADE by DWC resale merchandise associate. “And all proceeds go to services for the women.”

O’Brien works in the store with some of the center’s women, who not only help produce some of the merchandise, but learn customer services at the stores.

“We usually have many women involved in the process,” she said of the workforce development program. “There are volunteer opportunities available, too.”  

According to the DWC’s 2019 Los Angeles City Women’s Needs Assessment, (https://tinyurl.com/mwk56r) there were 18,331 women experiencing homelessness in the county, which showed a 41 percent increase in the number of homeless women since 2013.

The DWC is the only organization in Los Angeles focused exclusively on serving and empowering women who have been or are currently experiencing homelessness. 

DWC envisions a Los Angeles with every woman housed and on a path to personal stability. Its mission is to end homelessness for women in greater Los Angeles through housing, wellness, employment, and advocacy. 

Founded in 1978, DWC was the first permanent supportive housing provider for women in the U.S. It is built on a friendship that grew between an outreach worker named Jill Halverson and Rosa, a woman experiencing homelessness at the time. 

This friendship inspired Jill to open DWC and establish a community through which the lives of women like Rosa could be restored.

Today, DWC manages 119 units of permanent housing across greater Los Angeles, and has grown to serve more than 5,400 women annually. It provides a wide array of resources to decrease barriers and end homelessness for good for all women, including female veterans and their families, women with severe physical and mental health concerns, and survivors of domestic violence.

MADE by DWC’s mission, at its heart, has always been about advocating for women, who are disproportionately affected by homelessness. The venture’s first T-shirts feature the word “Womankind,” printed on 100 percent cotton shirts and sourced by a local, woman-owned business.

MADE by DWC’s home & gift collection is created by formerly homeless women employed in the job-training program. The signature collection includes all-natural, hand-poured soaps, soy candles, and bath salts, as well as cards and journals featuring personal artwork. 

All of the proceeds from purchases at MADE by DWC help fund career training and mentorship programs, and change lives by providing hands-on training to end homelessness. Items are also sold at retailers across Los Angeles.

A partner, the Transitional Jobs program is funded through the City and County of Los Angeles’ Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise (LA:RISE). It creates opportunities for women to earn an income while gaining skills through hands-on training and workshops. This innovative approach provides a supportive environment for women transitioning out of homelessness and into competitive employment, with one year of support post-job placement to ensure retention.

Learn more at www.DowntownWomensCenter.org.

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