Downtown Women’s Center celebrates its 40th; Russell marks 15th year at the site

| April 26, 2018 | 1 Comment


Celebrating its 40th year, the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC), at 442 S. San Pedro St., is poised to move beyond Skid Row to greater Los Angeles County to meet the growing need for its services and woman-centered approach to ending homelessness.

“Women’s homelessness has steadily increased in Los Angeles, particularly outside of the traditional downtown areas, and with that comes a greater need for permanent supportive housing and trauma-informed care services county-wide,” said board member Lynn Hall Russell.

As for her 15 years serving the center, the Brookside resident added, “It’s been tremendously rewarding.”

She was looking for a way to help the community when she responded to a newspaper ad to volunteer at the Center. She was still practicing law at the time but has since retired.

“A lot of what I do is listen,” she said. She has also put her skills in construction litigation to good use on the board, especially with the remodeling of one of the Center’s older residential units — a former shoe factory — in 2010.

Besides serving on the board, Russell packs snacks and heads to Skid Row every Wednesday night to spend social time with the residents, former homeless women, many of whom she’s known for years.

She’s seen remarkable turnaround in people’s lives from when they first came in, depressed and lost.

Besides finding a safe place to live and having access to health care, they gain self-respect. “They come in so troubled and have so many health problems, and here they get support.”

Russell also has learned how homelessness can happen to anyone. While many of the residents are college educated, they fall on hard times and lack a safety net. They lose a job, get ill or suffer some other misfortune and lack family support to fall back on, which is how they end up on the streets — a particularly dangerous place for women, she notes.

In the past 14 years, the DWC has grown from 1,000 to 4,000 women served annually.

Its annual operating budget is $10 million, and the center has a 120-member staff.

The 40th annual gala is Oct. 18 at Vibiana, in downtown’s historic core.

Founded in 1978, DWC was the first permanent supportive housing provider for women in the United States. Learn more at

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Category: People

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