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Downtown Women's Center
442 S. San Pedro St., 
Los Angeles, CA, 90013
(213) 680-0600
info@DWCweb.org


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Voices of DWC: Vikki's Story

 

Vikki moved in to her new apartment on Nov. 1, 2012 as part of the first group of women making our newly renovated Los Angeles Street building their new home.


She describes the entire experience as “nothing short of a miracle.”


“A year ago I couldn’t even wash my hair once a week and now I have everything,” said Vikki as she opened her arms wide indicating the entire building. “There’s even a bathtub! I haven’t had a bath in years—only showers.”


Vikki became homeless in 2005 when she was laid off her janitorial job of 13 years. She lost her house within the year. Distanced from her relatives and with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, she ended up living on the streets of Santa Monica.


“In Santa Monica, I slept behind the senior center in an abandoned park. It was the safest place I could find in this situation,” she said.


“When you’re on the streets you're always moving and tired,” she said.


After visiting a doctor at a local agency for an infection she developed on the streets, Vikki was given an emergency bed and remained in transitional housing until she heard about the Downtown Women’s Center and applied for housing.


“It’s so amazing that people do this for women,” she said of the housing and supportive services offered by DWC. Working with her case manager, Vikki applied, interviewed and was approved for housing at our new Los Angeles Street Residence.


“When I found out I had the apartment, my shoulders just dropped in relief.”


“I’m so much more relaxed now that I have an apartment and that I lease it. It felt really good getting the keys and hearing that is my apartment, and signing the lease—it was a miracle.”
 


Voices of DWC: Janine's Story

Janine woke up one morning and couldn’t stand up. “I got sick,” she said describing the debilitating illnesses that took away her ability to move, walk, and go to work. She was diagnosed with both Crohn’s Disease and Degenerative Disc Disease that forced her to use a walker. After losing her job, she was able to hold on to her apartment for seven months with her savings but ended up on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles soon after.

Janine celebrated her 50th birthday homeless and is thankful that this year, she will have a home to call her own just in time for the holidays. “Just knowing that I can prepare a meal in my own home, it’s amazing,” she said. “I can have my family and friends over… I’m ever so grateful that I have this opportunity.”

For Janine, her new apartment will allow her to afford housing, be in a safe environment and have the supportive services she needs to rebuild her life. “The building [Los Angeles Street Home] is like a beacon for me.”

The Road to DWC
Janine connected to the Downtown Women’s Center after several women had positive things to say about DWC and its supportive services. 

“The first thing I did was have lunch and it was amazing. And that brought me in to have case management and I saw Ms. Faye and her interaction with the Ladies. I saw the support given and I didn’t have anything when I walked in the door and Ms. Faye embraced me and let me know immediately that I was in a place of safety, that this center was supportive of the women in this area to empower themselves to become what they want.”

Finding the Downtown Women’s Center proved to be the lifeline she needed. “The most beautiful rainbows come after the worst storms,” she said as she waits for Nov. 1 to move in.

A Secure Future
Janine is now a full-time student at Los Angeles Community College and is part of a Bridge program, a partnership with Antioch University that she first learned about the DWC, where she is working towards college credit. She is majoring in psychology and her goal is to give back to the community once she’s done with her education. She hopes to intern at DWC and dedicate herself to helping other women surpass any adversities.

When asked how she feels about DWC, she replied, “I’m grateful for the Women’s Center and the women who empower the women to shoot for the stars.”


Voices of DWC: Peggy's Story

A warm and friendly grandmother, Peggy is the picture of pleasant. She smiles easily and laughs often, traits that worked to her advantage as she spent two decades working in the healthcare industry. At 60 years old Peggy thought she would be looking forward to retirement. Instead, she recounts the tale of her homelessness.

In 2008 Peggy was laid off along with hundreds of her colleagues. She had never been without work and had faith that her years of experience and degree in Health Information Technology would allow her to quickly transition into a new role.

Peggy began to develop depression and experience anxiety. When her unemployment benefits ended and her job search remained fruitless, Peggy was forced to leave her apartment. She turned to the social service hub of downtown Los Angeles.

During her healthcare career Peggy worked at a downtown Los Angeles hospital. She would drive through the Skid Row community and lock her car doors. She never thought she would become homeless saying, “This is not something people pray for.”

“I don’t want people to feel sorry for me,” Peggy explained, “Since coming here [Skid Row community] I have taken advantage of every opportunity.”

One of those opportunities led to a permanent home at the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC). On the day Peggy learned she had been accepted into the housing at DWC she cried tears of joy.

Peggy shared, “Knowing I have somewhere to go that isn’t temporary has encouraged me to do better. It has made me responsible to the Center and to myself.”

Since coming to the Center she has regained her sense of community - calling fellow residents her “sisters” and overcoming her anxiety to offer hugs and support to those in need. She even secured fulltime employment giving back to the homeless community.

“Without Permanent Supportive Housing the cycle of homelessness won’t end,” Peggy explained. A safe home at DWC allowed her to become stable after the trauma of facing homelessness. Her future plans include finding an apartment to share with her daughter and grandson.


Voices of DWC: Remisha's Story

Remisha was struggling with unemployment and facing eviction during an extremely difficult time in her life. She has five children and had a sixth on the way, who tragically passed away. Coping with this loss while trying to support her family , she turned to DWC’s Continuing Services program - a resource designed to empower women to overcome serious health, mental health, and housing. Remisha began to meet weekly with DWC’s Dr. Mina Kedar to plan goals and next steps to move forward.  


Her hard work is paying off. Remisha has completed the first year of beauty school and is pursuing her dream of becoming a licensed hair and makeup artist. She is also working on stabilizing her housing and regaining custody of her children. She is proud to be supporting her family by doing what she loves, and while she will never forget the challenges she has faced, she looks forward to enjoying the success that lies ahead.


Voices of DWC: Jessie Mae's Story

    

When Participant Jessie Mae first walked through the doors of the Downtown Women’s Center three years ago, she was looking for a safe place to unwind and focus.  This is exactly what she found when she was warmly invited in, offered a hot meal, and welcomed by the Ladies as part of the community. “It felt like home,” Jessie Mae recalls. She had found a place where she had the resources to get back on her feet – from basic needs, such as toiletries, to love and support from an understanding group of women.

 

Today, Jessie Mae continues to visit the Center and eagerly participates in a variety of offerings. She enjoys lunches, attends support groups, and helps out in the kitchen. As a new student at L.A. Technical College, she frequents DWC’s Learning Center to improve her computer skills as she earns her degree. In fact, she has graduated from DWC’s “Introduction to Computers” class for beginners, and is now enrolled in the Level 2 class.  Building computer proficiency is something she “never thought (she) would be able to achieve at the age of 50.”  “DWC has given me such wonderful opportunities and has shown me that anything can be accomplished!” she exclaims. Jessie Mae has also grown to consider the DWC community her family. “I have made a lot of friends,” she reveals. “The Ladies are like my sisters, and DWC is like a second home.”

 

PHOTO: Jessie Mae (left) with DWC's Dr. Mina Kedar and Volunteer Bruce on Thanksgiving 2008!

 

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