Accessibility links

Community Center Helps Women on Skid Row

Many homeless people live in the “Skid Row” area of Los Angeles, California. These men and women have no permanent place to live. Skid Row is a place where many social service groups can be found. They work to help the homeless find work and a place to live. One such organization works with women.

Skid Row is like no other place in Los Angeles. The homeless fill its sidewalks at all time of the day.

Yolanda Waters has a job as a barista. She prepares and sells coffee. But she was once homeless and spent time in Skid Row.

“It is the place where everybody is dumped. If you do not ask for help, you are not going to get helped. For people to be looking at you like you are nothing, treating you like you ain’t worth nothing -- that is the hard part.”

Ms. Waters received help from the Downtown Women’s Center. The center trains homeless women and helps them find work so they can live in a place of their own. It shows them how to create candles, greeting cards and other products. The program teaches the women to arrive on time, complete a project and work in a group.

Joe Altepeter is head of vocational education at the center.

“Rebuilding self esteem, developing relationships with individuals. Chronic homelessness, when you are living on the streets you become isolated. So this is an opportunity to really deal with those issues.”

He adds that about one-fourth of the 58,000 homeless people in Los Angeles are women. The high cost of housing is one reason they do not have a permanent place to call home.

Poor women are more at risk of being homeless. Many homeless women struggle with mental problems or have been abused.

The center gives them advice, health care and support.
“They come into the workshops, they might not have a community of friends or a support network, but they are entering this safe and the supportive environment, which offers that for them.”

The things the women make are sold at the Downtown Women’s Center, and at Bloomingdale’s, a store selling high-priced goods. Each handmade craft has a sign showing where it was made.

Kathy Suto works at Bloomingdale’s. She says the store has sold many of the crafts the women have made. She says she hopes other businesses will sell them.

“We have been very pleasantly surprised. It is something. I am now working to get the other five Bloomingdale’s stores in the Los Angeles market just to start carrying it as a part of their assortment.”

Yolanda Waters did not enjoy making crafts. But she did like making drinks in a small restaurant at the Downtown Women’s Center. After training there, she got a job. Now, she has an apartment home, and a reason to get out of bed.

“It feels unreal because sometimes I think when I wake up ‘Is it real? Do I have this real job that I really love?’”

I’m Jonathan Evans

Elizabeth Lee reported this story from Los Angeles. Christopher Jones-Cruise wrote it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

dump – v. to leave or unload (something or someone) quickly or without concern

self esteem – n. a feeling of having respect for yourself and your abilities

chronic – adj. happening or existing most of the time

isolated – adj. separate from others

workshop – n. a class or series of classes in which a small group of people learn the methods and skills used in doing something

carry – v. to have something in a store and ready to be sold; to keep something available

assortment – n. a group or collection of different things or people

How are homeless women in your country helped? We want to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments section.

Show comments