Above: Rose Arzola (left) with our founder Jill Halverson
It's with a heavy heart that we announce that Rose Arzola, the inspiration for the founding of the Downtown Women’s Center, died on Monday, December 5, 2016, following health complications related to age. She was 89.
At the time of her passing, Rose was living in a senior care facility in Los Angeles. Previously, she had lived in our permanent supportive housing residence after becoming the Center’s first resident in 1986, paving the way for the 119 residents who live with us today.
Above: Rose has a snack in the original Day Center at the Downtown Women's Center.
Rose will be greatly missed by all of us at DWC. “Rosa was a loving, caring soul, and my friend," says our founder Jill Halverson. "She is the reason why DWC exists today and she leaves behind an important legacy carried by DWC.”
Jill met Rose in 1975 and the pair became fast friends. While Rose was living in a make-shift shelter in a parking lot, Jill frequently visited to chat over coffee.
Above: Rose and Jill became fast friends after they were first introduced in 1975.
A bright, loving person with a keen sense of humor, Rose had cleaned homes and cooked meals for families in Los Angeles after moving from Texas, but she eventually began experiencing signs of mental illness that grew more severe throughout her 20s. She was in and out of psychiatric hospitals before she ended up homeless in Skid Row. Knowing that at the time, agencies in downtown Los Angeles were not used to serving or equipped to serve women, Jill was inspired by her friendship with Rose to open DWC in 1978. (Read more about DWC's founding here.)
Above: The Downtown Women's Center opened in 1978 on Los Angeles St. in downtown LA.
“Rose was a pioneer and an inseparable part of DWC and downtown Los Angeles’ history," says our CEO Anne Miskey. "One in four homeless individuals in the United States are women – and too often, women are overlooked, ignored, and erased from our history. We will not let this continue to happen. We honor Rose’s legacy and her contributions to the ongoing work of DWC to end homelessness for women."
Rest in peace, Rose.
Rose's funeral mass and rosary will be held at St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church in Highland Park on Friday, December 16 at 9:30am. Please join us in mourning the passing of our dear friend. Leave a comment below or donate in memory of this incredible woman here.