Contact: DOWNTOWN WOMEN'S CENTER
DOWNTOWN WOMEN'S CENTER
442 S. San Pedro St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: (213) 680-0600
Fax: (213) 680-0844
Creating Safe Space for Women
Before DWC opened our doors in 1978, homeless women in the heart of Los Angeles had no place to turn for shelter and support. Skid Row and its surrounding streets were in every respect a man’s world -- its shelters, pantries and social services accessible only to men.
DWC began as the result of one woman’s deep concern for the well-being of mentally ill women who found themselves destitute and on the streets of Los Angeles following the closure of psychiatric hospitals in the early 1970’s. Her relationship with Rosa, a mentally ill woman whose home was two shopping carts in a downtown parking lot, initiated and inspired the support of the many individuals who have offered their time, resources, and talents to create a safe place for women facing the harsh realities of homelessness. Rosa's Story speaks to the resourcefulness and dignity of a woman who faces survival on the streets.
How Our Center Began
In 1978, DWC Founding Director Jill Halverson rented a storefront and opened the city’s first Day Center for women. Halverson withdrew her life savings and, garnering support from others in the community, acquired the furniture and rent dollars needed to open the Downtown Women’s Center and provide hot, well-balanced meals to women in need. In the beginning, Jill's Place (as DWC's drop-in center has come to be known) operated as a de facto mental health facility with volunteer psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses. Over time, the Center grew to become a comprehensive program offering not just one daily meal, but three—breakfast, lunch, and a hearty afternoon snack—along with a respite from life on the street. Day-rest beds, restrooms, showers, and a variety of personal services are important components of the Center, creating a safe space for women to rest and refresh themselves. Please visit Our Center for more information about the comprehensive array of services currently offered to women. Such services, so essential to maintain well-being and a sense of dignity, are difficult to find on Skid Row, even in the present day. In fact, three decades after our founding, DWC remains the only center providing a safe environment exclusive to women.
Another milestone was reached in 1986, when, with they help of an exceptionally talented and generous Community of Supporters, DWC opened the doors of our newly acquired and renovated Residence. The design of the Residence, located directly adjacent to the Day Center, features 47 unique, single-room apartment units in which women live on a permanent basis. The Residence is dedicated to providing safe, service-enriched, low-cost housing featuring furnished private rooms and access to community kitchen, bath, laundry and recreational facilities. Specialized programs and individualized case management encourage and assist the residents in making the transition to independent living.
A set-back befell DWC in 1987, when the Whittier Narrows Earthquake caused significant damage to the Day Center. With the help of our supportive community, the Center was rebuilt to double our original capacity, accommodating the growing population of homeless women who benefit from DWC's vital services.
Today, the Downtown Women’s Center is nationally recognized as a prototype for programs striving to meet the unique needs of homeless women. We serve over 2000 women per year in our Day Center and in 2006, celebrated the 20-year anniversary of our Residence! Within all aspects of DWC, women find support in coping with the multiple challenges that have contributed to their homelessness: the effects of aging, mental illness, physical disability, domestic violence, poverty, and aging out of foster care.
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