More than 800 women sleep on the streets of Skid Row—with no shelter or roof over their heads.
“There are women who sleep right in front of our building every night, because they feel safest here,” says Lisa Watson, interim CEO of the Downtown Women’s Center, a nonprofit on San Pedro Street that provides healthcare, job training, meals, and other services to homeless women in Skid Row. “So we thought: ‘Why not bring them indoors?’”
Starting last week, they did.
The center converted a portion of a building that was already open to women during the day into a sleeping area. Work was already underway to remodel that space, which is accessed by 200 women daily. It’s where they can get fresh clothes, food, and medical care.
As part of the remodel, the center acquired rollable furniture that can be tucked away at night to make way for 25 cots. They were able to bring in four women who had been seeping right in front of their doors, along with 21 others living on streets in the area and who had accessed day services.
“In the evening, the women get dinner, showers… we obviously have restrooms,” says Watson. “They can use the computers, the phone, and lockers. They can charge their phones. But we’ll also have fun and games and educational programs.”
The center is budgeting $60 per woman per night for the new “enhanced bridge housing program.” Funding comes from Wells Fargo, which donated $285,000, and the city of Los Angeles, which is kicking in $350,000.
“Homelessness is definitely not something we should get used to seeing,” says Patricia Gonazalez, regional manager at Wells Fargo who serves on the Downtown Women’s Center board of directors. “Everyone should do something.”