DWC offers income, job training to women experiencing homelessness

By Kamala Kirk

Women are employed through Made by DWC, a purpose-driven social enterprise, and attend skill-development workshops while receiving additional employment support services.

In the heart of Skid Row, a team of baristas make organic coffees and teas and serve light fare in a small café.

What’s deeper inside is special. The Made by DWC Café is a community gathering place that helps break the cycle of chronic homelessness by providing women the opportunity to earn income while gaining job skills.

Since 1978, the Downtown Women’s Center has been focused exclusively on serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless females. Over the years, DWC has expanded to include many different programs and support services, including permanent supportive housing, health care services, advocacy training and a drop-in day center.

In 2010, the organization created Made by DWC, a purpose-driven social enterprise that now includes three businesses for women.

“Made by DWC was launched 10 years ago with our Home & Gift Collection and our Café & Gift Boutique,” said Zarina Guerrero, Made by DWC’s social enterprise retail and branding manager.

“One year later, we opened our resale boutique. Within our social enterprise, we provide hands-on job training for women transitioning out of homelessness. We believe employment is a life-changing opportunity that empowers women to succeed in all aspects of their lives, both at work and beyond.”

The resale boutique offers a unique shopping experience that includes women’s apparel and accessories with selections of new, gently used, vintage and designer items. The boutique is curated by the women in the job training program who learn retail, merchandising, customer service and online sales skills. Items are available for sale at the boutique as well as online.

All of the handmade items from the Home & Gift Collection are made on-site at DWC’s DTLA location and can be purchased through the website. Women are welcome to apply for roles in any of the three businesses and are placed in a role according to their skillset and to meet the needs of their goals.

“Our Home & Gift Collection is created with love by the women of Made by DWC,” Guerrero said.

“It includes our all-natural soaps, soy candles, bath salts, stationery featuring artwork by women, and our new line of apparel and accessories. Inspired by the beauty and diversity of California, each scent evokes memories of an iconic place in our great state. Our candles, soaps and bath salts create a sensorial experience that will soothe and restore the mind and body.”

All the revenue generated from sales at Made by DWC is reinvested into the organization’s programs, allowing them to grow, scale their team and provide more job training opportunities. Other ways individuals can contribute is through donations to Made by DWC or directly to DWC. They accept donations of new and gently used designer and vintage women’s apparel and accessories. Monetary donations also help support women through their journey.
“COVID-19 has impacted us tremendously,” Guerrero said.

“Out of an abundance of caution for the women we serve, we’ve remained closed and implemented health and safety protocols through the duration of the pandemic. We did feel it was absolutely necessary to continue to offer our job training service as it allows women to earn income and often provides a safe place to spend the day. We are continuing to provide job training with our Home & Gift Collection and resale boutique by shifting our focus to online sales.”

This year, Made by DWC celebrates 10 years of making an impact in the community and on March 25 it hosted a 10-year impact panel and celebration.
“Over the past 10 years, we have supported 1,154 women through our job-readiness initiatives with a total of more than 165,568 hours of training,” Guerrero said.

“In addition to technical skills, we focused on essential skills where we saw an increase in self-esteem and interpersonal development. Over the past six years, we’ve had a job placement rate of 70% and saw women retaining those jobs at an average rate of 80%. In addition, 10 women from our job training programs moved into job roles here at Made by DWC. We are excited to be celebrating our 10th anniversary and look forward to our upcoming special events throughout the year.”

For more information, visit madebydwc.org and follow on Instagram: @madebydwc