Chrysalis has been “Changing lives through jobs” in Santa Monica since 1994. The organization helps the jobless find jobs.

The innovative nonprofit Chrysalis organization that has transformed itself through the years to more successfully fulfill its mission recently made a partial move into a new office at 1853 Lincoln Blvd. in Santa Monica.

Chrysalis purchased the building through a generous $1.6 million gift from board member Alan Long, Southern California president of Sotheby’s International Realty.

The gift, which covered the complete cost of the property, has allowed Chrysalis to create a permanent home and to further its presence in Santa Monica.

“We wanted to stay in Santa Monica,” says Hillary Oberstein, Chrysalis vice president of development.

“There’s a tremendous homeless population and we’re committed to staying and helping.”

Until remodeling of the new facility is complete, its programs will continue to operate out of its old space at 1837 Lincoln Blvd. in Santa Monica.

When John Dillon founded Chrysalis in 1984, his purpose was to provide food and blankets to the homeless on Skid Row, but he realized it was a temporary fix.

He determined the real fix was in providing jobs so those without hope could earn money and transform their lives.

Chrysalis helps over 2,000 economically disadvantaged people a year become self-sufficient through employment by offering free comprehensive programs that address the basics of a contemporary job search and focus on eliminating barriers that prevent people from working, according to Oberstein.

If those seeking help from Chrysalis are clean and sober, have some type of housing — even if it’s a friend’s couch — and have the proper ID showing they are legal to work in the US, Chrysalis can help.

“To be job-ready, they need an alarm clock and a place to shower,” Oberstein says.

While the majority of Chrysalis clients are able to find a job on their own, about 40 percent may have been in jail, out of work or homeless for a longer period and need more help.

To overcome these barriers, Chrysalis operates two businesses.

The first is Labor Connection, a full-service staffing agency that provides employment opportunities to its clients.

Chrysalis contracts with businesses to be the preferred agency, so that when a business has a job opening, the business calls Labor Connection.

Labor Connection offers businesses flexible options such as temporary or long-term employees as well as employee assistance and payroll services.

StreetWorks, the second business, which began in 1993 as an outgrowth of Labor Connection, is Chrysalis’s professional street-maintenance and cleaning service, which contracts with business associations and private companies.

Owned, operated and staffed by Chrysalis, it employs its clients in apprenticeships and allows them to practice their work skills, which makes them more marketable, while providing a paycheck.

Workers get to know their supervisor, who can then speak on their behalf when they apply for a new job.

“We found a transitional job is the key to a client’s success,” Oberstein says. “They gain necessary skills and can then go out and find a job on their own.”

Other programs include free classes that teach clients how to launch an effective job search and write a resume.

Interview and job retention skills are covered as well as how to use the Internet, sign up for e-mail, and create and send electronic resumes, all of which improve a person’s self-confidence and employability.

Clients are also assigned their own phone number to put on their resume, which helps tremendously if they’re living in transitional housing, according to Oberstein.

“It’s all part of the design to help create dignity and self-sufficiency.”

Oberstein gives high praise to Chrysalis employment specialists, who work closely with clients to make sure they get the skills they need to enter the job market.

“It takes an average of 11 to 16 weeks for a client to get a job,” Oberstein says. “That’s a long time when you’re hitting the pavement and have faced a life of rejection. Our employment specialists work tirelessly to provide clients with encouragement and support and they are key in helping clients move forward and change their lives.”

Chrysalis has been recognized for its inventive approach to helping the disadvantaged, and the organization presented its model at a White House conference exploring “Innovative Solutions to Hunger and Poverty” for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1999.

Oberstein says this gave the nonprofit organization an expanded presence on a different level and, in terms of legislation and policy, “it brings us into the conversation.”

Oberstein says clients who come to Chrysalis are not sure they can get a job and take care of themselves.

“The most courageous step is to walk through the door,” she says. “They’re coming from substance abuse and illegal behavior and want to leave that behind and change their lives — it’s an amazing and courageous thing.”

She adds that as long as people come, Chrysalis will help them take the next step.

Information: (310) 392-4117 or

Julie Kirst can be reached at