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Working to Reclaim Her Life


“I want to go back to work. I want to go back to my previous life.”

These are words Alisa S. repeats throughout sharing her story. This mantra has kept her going through the past two years when she first arrived to downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row area. 

Originally from Armenia, Alisa has lived in California for the past 17 years. A few years ago, she went through family problems that left her with few options. She slept in a park for 10 days until she was advised to go to downtown Los Angeles and seek shelter and services.

“I lost everything; my work, my place to live… everything.”

Although Alisa seems shy and reserved upon first meeting her, she is enthusiastic in DWC’s creative workshops and employment program.

“I like to make candles. I love the process of how to melt the base, after that put [in] the scent and prepare to pour in a cup or glasses. I also like the block-printing classes to make the cards. Would I say I am creative? I am trying to be creative.”


Alisa taking part in a SET to Create product-making workshop.

“I like [Workshop Leader and Volunteer] Hannah’s classes because she organizes the work very properly," she goes on. "In the candle-making classes, every single person got to do some different work and all together we are team... Hannah organized and led our work so we can make the candles. It makes the work easy.”


For Alisa, gaining skills from the process of making candles has empowered her further to enroll in new classes where she learns design.

"The volunteers provide the knowledge of their work."

"It’s easy to follow the steps of what they show us, and also they motivate us to work. I am now in [a] SET to Design workshop and I didn’t know I could make forms and it was very hard for me. But then [Workshop Leader] Irene motivated me and I prepared two forms for block-printing. She told me to ‘just try, you’ll get it.’ Eventually I tried and made those forms for block-printing.”

Inexhaustible in her journey, Alisa recently joined the job-training program where she’s learning inventory and design in the MADE by DWC Resale Boutique.

“I want to prepare myself to go back to work, and SET to Work gives me more skills and motivates me. Work for me is important for going back to the previous life I had, and to be able to work and take care of myself.”


Alisa preparing handMADE soaps to be sold in the MADE by DWC Resale Boutique.

When asked where she sees herself in five years, Alisa knows exactly where she wants to be: “In five years, I want to have a job, I want to have an apartment and be able to pay the bills.”

For Alisa, her journey is clear and thanks to DWC, she is getting closer to fulfilling her goals every day.

“My advice for women in Skid Row is they have to start from somewhere, and DWC is a good place to start their work and do something creative.”

Want to get involved with our SET to Create job readiness program or lead a product-making workshop? Check out our current volunteer opportunities here!

Photos by: Erica Kawamoto Hsu

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