Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the Downtown Women’s Center?
  • What are some of the services the Downtown Women’s Center provides?
  • Is the Downtown Women’s Center a shelter?
  • Does the Downtown Women’s Center serve children and families?
  • Who founded the Downtown Women’s Center?
  • What are the biggest hurdles in advocating for the end of homelessness for women and in supporting the needs of women who struggle with homelessness and poverty?
  • How is the Downtown Women’s Center funded?
  • What is the process of obtaining housing at the Downtown Women’s Center?
  • What is currently being done to address the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles?
  • How can individuals and community members get involved with Downtown Women’s Center to make a difference?
  • I am a student working on a project, and I’d like to include information about the Downtown Women’s Center. Can you answer my specific questions via phone or email?
  • I’d love to volunteer at the Downtown Women’s Center. How can I get started?
  • I’d love to volunteer, but I’m under the age of 18. Are there any opportunities for me?
  • Can I visit the Downtown Women’s Center?
  • How can I learn more about the Downtown Women’s Center?

What is the Downtown Women’s Center?

Founded in 1978, the Downtown Women’s Center is the only organization in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles exclusively dedicated to addressing the immediate and long-term needs of women overcoming homelessness and poverty. We provide permanent supportive housing as well as services and resources to help women exit the cycle of homelessness and regain personal stability.

What are some of the services the Downtown Women’s Center provides?

The Downtown Women’s Center 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.

We serve approximately 200 women daily in our Day Center, where we provide a place to rest, as well as three nutritious, home-cooked meals and access to clean bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and changes of clothes. Our Women’s Health Center, 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.

Our Job Readiness and education programs empower women to overcome barriers to employment and to develop skills needed to succeed. (Learn more about our social enterprise, MADE by DWC, here.)

Is the Downtown Women’s Center a shelter?

No, the Downtown Women’s Center is not a shelter. Instead, we provide permanent supportive housing and emergency services in our Day Center, which is open from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Does the Downtown Women’s Center serve children and families?

The Downtown Women’s Center provides on-site services to single adult women only and off-site housing support to families through our community-based housing programs. If a family comes to us in need of immediate services or a place to stay temporarily, our case managers can refer them to organizations that cater to their needs.

Who founded the Downtown Women’s Center?

The Downtown Women’s Center 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 ending up in Skid Row.

Unfortunately for Rosa and so many women like her, service providers at the time were unequipped to serve homeless and low-income women and address their basic needs (such as their specific healthcare needs, their higher likelihood of having survived trauma than homeless men, and unique 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 the Downtown Women’s Center as a space for women to safely access the specific services they needed to regain personal stability and to build community with one another.

To learn more about Jill and Rosa’s story, head here.

What are the biggest hurdles in advocating for the end of homelessness for women and in supporting the needs of women who struggle with homelessness and poverty?

One major hurdle is a lack of available housing. Much of the country is currently in an affordable housing crisis, and Los Angeles is among the cities that have been hit hardest. Homelessness is impacting more and more people each year. In Los Angeles County, homelessness rose 23% in 2016, largely because of increasing housing costs paired with stagnant wages. A 2017 study showed that a 5% rent hike in Los Angeles County would push 2,000 residents into homelessness.

Another hurdle has been getting policymakers, politicians, and the general public to recognize unaccompanied adult women as a distinct subgroup within the larger homeless population. Women experiencing homelessness have unique vulnerabilities: they are far more likely than their male counterparts to have survived violence and they have unique health care and job training needs. What’s more, the number of women experiencing homelessness has risen in recent years: women now comprise 40% of the national homeless population, whereas a few years ago that number was closer to 25%.

We know that by identifying women’s specific needs and meeting those needs with services, the number of women experiencing homelessness will be significantly reduced. Over the last year, we’ve seen women become a much bigger part of the conversation about homelessness, and the City and County of Los Angeles have each taken significant steps to address women’s homelessness.

How is the Downtown Women’s Center funded?

We are funded through a combination of government grants, foundation and corporate grants, individual contributions, and other sources. In 2016, 25% of our funding came from government grants, 23% came from foundations and corporate grants, 13% came from individual contributions, 12% came from special event income, and the remaining 27% came from a combination of social enterprise income, rental income, in-kind support, and investment income. You can read a more detailed breakdown of our 2016 financials in our annual report here.

What is the process of obtaining housing at the Downtown Women’s Center?

The Downtown Women’s Center is part of the Coordinated Entry System, a system that matches individuals and families with the highest-priority needs with eligible units of housing in the County of Los Angeles

What is currently being done to address the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles?

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, LA County voters approved Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax expected to generate around $355 million per year to go toward supportive services for individuals experiencing homelessness, such as case management, mental and physical healthcare, and trauma recovery.

How can individuals and community members get involved with Downtown Women’s Center to make a difference?

  • Advocate – Affordable housing is critically needed in all neighborhoods, not just in Skid Row. Contact your local councilmembers and neighborhood representatives to advocate for more affordable housing and permanent supportive housing in your community. Be aware of measures like Prop HHH and Measure H on local ballots that can end homelessness. Advocate for legislation that directs funding toward affordable housing and homelessness services.
  • Use Your Voice – Start conversations with your friends and family about why homelessness exists – putting a human face to this issue is critical.
  • Donate – Another way to get involved with DWC is by contributing financially, which makes the work we do every day possible. You can give a one-time donation or pledge a monthly donation here.
  • Volunteer – Donating your time to ending homelessness by volunteering with a service provider is a great way to make an impact. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, we have a number of individual and group volunteer opportunities available here.
  • Shop MADE by DWC – Support the Downtown Women’s Center by shopping at our social enterprise, MADE by DWC. 100% of product proceeds support the programs and services at DWC. You can purchase handmade products including soy wax candles, all-natural soaps, block-printed cards, and more at our online store or at either of our two storefronts: MADE by DWC Resale Store (325 S. Los Angeles St., 90013) or our MADE by DWC Café and Gift Boutique (442 S. San Pedro St., 90013).

I am a student working on a project, and I’d like to include information about the Downtown Women’s Center. Can you answer my specific questions via phone or email?

We appreciate you including DWC in your school project! Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to respond individually to student requests. Please use this website page as a resource for any questions you have about our work. You can also schedule a tour and view our 2016 Annual Report and Needs Assessment for more information about DWC and women’s homelessness.

I’d love to volunteer at the Downtown Women’s Center. How can I get started?

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 here. To volunteer with a group of friends or coworkers, you can simply fill out an application here, 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 orientation will familiarize you with DWC’s programs, mission, and volunteer opportunities, and the training will provide more insight into the community DWC serves. Orientations and trainings are offered monthly; you can find a list of upcoming dates and sign up here. (Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to organize special orientations and trainings outside these planned monthly dates.)

I’d love to volunteer, but I’m under the age of 18. Are there any opportunities for me?

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

Can I visit the Downtown Women’s Center?

Yes, we offer 30-minute tours of DWC on the second Friday (2:00 p.m.) and Sunday (1:00 p.m.) of every month. You can schedule a tour here.

How can I learn more about the Downtown Women’s Center?