A Beacon of Hope for Women Experiencing Homelessness

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
Resident Loraine at DWC's original location.

Liliana, a survivor of domestic violence, found herself displaced from her home at the age of 55. Struggling to afford housing and lacking adequate support from her family, she faced the terrifying prospect of homelessness. However, her trajectory changed when she discovered the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) in Los Angeles. DWC provides essential services, including supportive housing, a day center, a health clinic, and educational and job training programs. DWC stands as the only organization in Los Angeles dedicated to empowering women and gender-diverse individuals experiencing homelessness.

Liliana was provided with permanent supportive housing and mental health services at DWC, and today, she is an advocate for more and better services for women experiencing homelessness. Her story mirrors many of those of the over 5,000 homeless women who access DWC services every year. 

“Sometimes a basic meal or shower leads to permanent housing that DWC owns and operates,” says Amy Turk, chief executive officer of DWC, adding that their mission is to end homelessness for women in Los Angeles.

Addressing Women’s Needs in Los Angeles

In 1978, Jill Halverson, founder of DWC, pioneered solutions to rewrite the narrative for women experiencing homelessness, many who face various physical and mental health issues, a heightened risk of gender-based violence, and a lack of social support networks. These vulnerabilities are exacerbated by the ongoing shortage of safe, affordable housing in Los Angeles, which disproportionately affects women across all age groups. 

“We strive to empower women to end homelessness by offering housing, employment opportunities, and healthcare,” says Turk, emphasizing DWC’s commitment to holistic support.

Housing Solutions for Women Experiencing Homelessness

According to DWC’s 2022 Los Angeles County Women’s Needs Assessment, more than 14,000 unaccompanied women were experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County. Seventy-five percent of these women were unsheltered and facing distinct and multifaceted challenges that demanded urgent attention, such as repeated harassment, threats and theft. DWC is at the forefront of providing much-needed solutions to these growing, pressing issues facing women.

Their emphasis on a “Housing First” and trauma-informed service model includes: access to basic needs and resources; on-site housing and supportive services; community-based housing; job readiness and employment; and advocacy. Currently, DWC manages 119 units of permanent housing in the Skid Row Community of Downtown Los Angeles. DWC is in the process of developing three new buildings with over 180 new homes for women by 2026.

Empowering Individuals,  Forging Enterprise Success

Engaging with women and understanding their needs is at the heart of every program at DWC, says Turk. Unlike some programs, where individuals may have to meet requirements before gaining access to services, DWC creates a safe and welcoming environment focused on enabling women to direct their services and thrive.

The Center’s social enterprise, MADE by DWC, provides work opportunities through a product line of handmade items, now sold in a coffee shop and a resale boutique of the same name. This nationally recognized model of combining housing, wellness, and employment services can and should be replicated everywhere.

DWC envisions a Los Angeles where every woman is housed and on a path to personal stability.


Downtown Women’s Center

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(213) 680-0600 x2818
Chief Development Officer: Jesse Pittman


The Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) envisions a Los Angeles with every woman housed and on a path to personal stability. Its mission is to end homelessness for women in greater Los Angeles through housing, wellness, employment, and advocacy.

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