L.A.'s Chrysalis helps the homeless break through the job barrier

Jul 16, 2012

Skid Row, located in downtown Los Angeles, has long been synonymous with homelessness and poverty. It was to this community that John Dillon, 22 years old, arrived to work in the neighborhood to provide direct services to the homeless population. In 1984, he founded nonprofit Chrysalis as a distribution center for food and clothing, serving men and women who were living on the streets.

As the agency grew, it became clear that longer-term solutions were needed to eradicate poverty and homelessness. Chrysalis developed an effective and nationally recognized program built on the foundation of securing jobs. Offering its clients “a hand up and not a hand-out,” Chrysalis helps them with every aspect of a job search—computer training and job retention skills as well as the “soft skills” of resume writing, job search, and interviewing.

Since 2005, Bank of America has been a supporter of the organization’s programs, providing philanthropic support through grants, leadership on the Chrysalis board, and thousands of volunteer hours from employees who work directly with Chrysalis clients to help them get job-ready.

According to Mark Loranger, Chrysalis’ President and CEO, “The support from Bank of America not only helps us but helps us help the entire community.” Says Garrett Gin, a global marketing and corporate affairs executive at the bank, “While Los Angeles is known as a creative epicenter of design and fashion, unfortunately it’s also known as the homeless capital of the U.S. Chrysalis is acting to stem the tide of homelessness, doing the hard work of helping these men and women reenter the mainstream. Working with Chrysalis, we really get to see the impact that their programs, and our time and efforts, are making on individual families, households and communities.”

Since the downturn, the need for job training is particularly acute, with 60% more people seeking their services last year at their three centers in downtown L.A., Santa Monica and the Pacoima area of the San Fernando Valley. Chrysalis’ job-readiness classes and intensive individual mentoring help 400 clients a day get the skills they need to crack the job market. And for the hardest-to-employ, there is Chrysalis Enterprises, a temporary jobs program that gives clients real-world skills in a transitional setting.

Chrysalis’ impressive results have come in two areas—high employment rates and low-cost services. Last year, over 1700 clients were successfully employed. And the average cost of the program is $2000 per client, a fraction of the cost of similar government-sponsored employment programs.

Chrysalis has a longtime tradition that marks their success. Whenever a client gets a job, he or she rings a bell in the lobby and tells the story. Says Loranger, “The affirmation and self-confidence they get from doing that is a great foundation for the next step of having a job.”

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