22 June 2013

I just came home from a birthday party where I spent much of the evening talking to Tom Bagamane, founder of The Giving Spirit, a great Los Angeles organization that distributes survival kits twice a year to the homeless. 

We were talking about how relatively easy it is to become homeless in this economy. I’m so fortunate that I have a safety net, but who knows if it’s enough? Tom and I talked about so many people lost their jobs — he told me about a women who used to work at IBM and a sociologist— and they had no back up. They don’t have families they can fall back on or friends or savings.  The only difference between me and them is that I have a roof over my head tonight. 

As I left the party, I asked Tom to pick a charity (I gave to TGS on Jan. 2, so I couldn’t repeat it) and he suggested Downtown Women’s Center. According to its website, DWC was named California’s Nonprofit of the Year.  For 35 years, the DWC has been helping women who fall into homelessness and is the only shelter in Los Angeles (other than ones for domestic violence) that cater solely to women.  

DWC provides permanent supportive housing for women and boasts that 95% of the women it houses have not returned to homelessness. It has 119 units with the usual length of stay averaging seven years. 

DWC is remarkable in the range of services it provides, including a medical and mental health center that offers comprehensive health care for women. It also operates Made By DWC, a cafe and gift shop that trains women in the community with job skills. 

The vast majority of women DWC serves are homeless women who come to the DWC Day Center for a respite, a meal, and a shower. 

There’s a severe need for DWC’s services: in 2011, it served 4,300 women, up 72% from 2010. 

It’s a wonderful place that is making a tremendous difference in keeping women safe, even if it’s only an hour at a time. 

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