Frequently Asked Questions

The Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) is the only organization in Los Angeles focused exclusively on serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless women. 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.

DWC provides 119 units of permanent supportive housing through our two residence buildings in Skid Row. In addition to on-site housing, we work one-on-one with women to connect them with community-based housing throughout Los Angeles County.

Every day, we serve approximately 200 women in our Day Center, where they have access to a safe place to rest as well as three home-cooked meals daily, clean bathrooms, showers, and changes of clothes. Our Women’s Health Clinic, the only women-specific clinic in Skid Row, provides primary care, STD/HIV testing, TB and cancer screenings, vaccinations, mammograms, women’s exams, and more. We also provide individual and group therapy, as well as trauma recovery services.

Finally, our Workforce Development Program empowers women to overcome barriers to employment and to develop the skills they need to succeed. Learn more about our social enterprise, MADE by DWC, here.

No, DWC is not a shelter. Instead, we provide housing assistance, case management, and emergency services in our Day Center, which is open 6am-4pm Monday through Friday, and 7am-3pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Please see here for a list of nearby shelters.

DWC provides on-site services to single adult women only

We provide off-site housing support to families through our Community-Based Housing Program. If a family comes to us in need of immediate services or a place to stay, our case managers can refer them to other local organizations.

DWC was founded in 1978 by Jill Halverson, a former Peace Corps volunteer who was working as an outreach worker in Skid Row in the 1970s. Through some of her clients, she befriended Rosa, a woman experiencing homelessness due to mental illness that grew more severe throughout her 20s. Rosa was in and out of psychiatric hospitals before she ended up in Skid Row.

Unfortunately for Rosa and so many women like her, service providers at the time were unequipped to serve and address homeless and low-income women’s unique healthcare, trauma, and employment/job-training needs. As Jill got to know Rosa, she realized the significant lack of services available to women in Skid Row. In response, Jill founded DWC as a space where women could safely access gender-specific services in order to regain personal stability and build a community with one another.

Learn more about Jill and Rosa’s here.

We appreciate your interest in including DWC in your school project! Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to respond to student requests. Please use our website as a resource for any questions you may have about DWC. We suggest searching our 2018 Annual Report, our 2019 Los Angeles City Women’s Needs Assessment, and the “Resources” tab for more information about DWC and women’s homelessness in greater Los Angeles.

Our strong community of volunteers is what makes our work possible! We have several opportunities available to groups and individual volunteers that you can read about and apply to here

To volunteer with a group of friends or coworkers, simply fill out an application and a staff member will be in touch with you.

To volunteer individually, you must be over the age of 18 and attend both a volunteer orientation and training (in that order). Volunteer training will familiarize you with DWC’s programs, mission, and volunteer opportunities, and will provide more insight into the community DWC serves. Trainings are offered monthly; we do not have the capacity to organize special orientations and trainings outside these planned monthly dates.

Yes, we have several off-site opportunities for volunteers under the age of 18 that you can read about here.

One major hurdle has been the lack of affordable housing in the Los Angeles region. Much of the country is currently in an affordable housing crisis, and Los Angeles is among its hardest-hit cities. Homelessness is impacting more and more people each year. While several measures have passed in recent years to provide extra funding for affordable housing and homeless support services, there is great work to be done yet.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle, though, has been getting legislators and policymakers to recognize unaccompanied adult women as a distinct subgroup within the larger homeless population. Women experiencing homelessness have unique vulnerabilities and healthcare and job training needs; they are also far more likely than their male counterparts to have survived violence. What’s more, the number of women experiencing homelessness has risen in recent years, with women now comprising nearly one third (or 29%) of the national homeless population.

We know that identifying women’s specific needs and meeting those needs with services will lead to a significant reduction in the number of women experiencing homelessness. Over the last few years, we’ve seen women become a bigger part of the conversation around homelessness, and we are emboldened by recent steps taken by the City and County of Los Angeles to address women’s homelessness in the region.

We are funded through a combination of government grants, foundation and corporate grants, individual contributions, and other sources. In 2018, 29% of our funding came from government grants, 24% came from foundations and corporate grants, 14% came from individual contributions, 5% came from special event income (such as our Annual Gala), and the remaining 28% came from a combination of in-kind support, capital contributions, and income from our social enterprise, housing units, and investments. You can read a more detailed breakdown of our 2018 financials in the annual report here.

DWC is part of the Coordinated Entry System (CES), a system that matches individuals and families with the highest-priority needs with eligible units of housing in the County of Los Angeles.

To access any of DWC’s services, including housing assistance, please call (213) 680-0600 or visit our Day Center in-person at 442 S. San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013.

Los Angeles is poised to become a national leader in ending homelessness. In November 2016, voters in the City of Los Angeles passed Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion housing bond that will fund approximately 10,000 units of affordable housing over the next 10 years. In March 2017, Los Angeles County voters approved Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax expected to generate around $355 million per year to fund supportive services for individuals experiencing homelessness, such as case management, mental and physical healthcare, and trauma recovery. Learn more here.

There are so many ways that individuals like you can get involved with our work here at DWC! For those ready to make a financial or in-kind contribution, we have a number of donation options available here. You can also join our 5,000-strong team of individual and group volunteers by signing up here

Another way to support DWC is by shopping our MADE by DWC Home & Gift Collection. All products are ethically made by women enrolled in our job-training program, with 100% of proceeds going towards ending women’s homelessness in Los Angeles. You can purchase our handmade soy wax candles, all-natural soaps, stationery, and more at our online store, our MADE by DWC Resale Boutique (325 S. Los Angeles St., 90013), or our MADE by DWC Café and Gift Boutique (442 S. San Pedro St., 90013).

Your support doesn’t have to start and end with DWC, though. Affordable housing is critically needed in all Los Angeles neighborhoods, not just in Skid Row, and we need your help. Our Advocacy & Policy page contains some great resources on how to get started by:

  • Contacting your City Councilmembers and neighborhood representatives to advocate for more affordable housing and permanent supportive housing in your community.
  • Voting to approve local ballot measures that support and fund solutions to end homelessness.
  • Adding your voice to petitions and write-in campaigns throughout the year.
  • Advocating for legislation that directs funding towards affordable housing and homelessness services.
  • Starting conversations with your friends and family about why homelessness exists … putting a human face to this issue is critical!