GOOD

How One Nonprofit Integrates the Homeless Back Into Society

“It’s the dignity, respect, and familial connections that are formed when someone is gainfully employed.” #globalgoals

This fall, the United Nations is preparing to launch its 17 Sustainable Development Goals—an extraordinary action plan to solve the world’s biggest problems by 2030. Over the coming months, we’ll be connecting with The Local Globalists: 17 nonprofit founders, entrepreneurs, and social innovators who are working every day, wherever they are, to turn one of the U.N.’s #globalgoals into reality.


Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.

In 1984, John Dillon was 22 years old and a year out of college, volunteering with Catholic Charities in the Jesuit Volunteer Core. After a year of service on Skid Row in Los Angeles, he decided he wanted to start his own nonprofit to serve the homeless. In the beginning stages, he formed the nonprofit Chrysalis as a food and clothing distributor, but soon realized that he was giving out Band-Aids rather than solving long-term problems. He soon pivoted his focus to employment services for low-income, formerly incarcerated, and homeless populations, with the philosophy that with steady jobs, people could find long-term self-sufficiency. Named after the transitional state in which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, the nonprofit serves as a protective cocoon that makes transformation possible.

Although Dillon eventually ended up moving back to the East Coast to become an investor in real estate, he kept his organization running with the guidance of CEO Mark Loranger. For 13 years, Loranger worked at IBM, then became an entrepreneur for 10 years. After selling his company, he felt that he wanted to make more of an impact in society, serving low-income populations. After eight years at Chrysalis, Loranger will have helped over 2,000 homeless people get employed this year alone. With an estimated 50,000 homeless people in Los Angeles and high rates of poverty, Chrysalis is making a small, hyperlocal impact, one that has not only connected clients to new opportunities, but also reconnected them to their families. Loranger’s priority with Chrysalis is to help clients with their résumés, interview skills, and job skills. Beneath all that work is the core value of treating each human being with dignity and respect.

“The challenge for most clients is that this program is completely voluntary, self-motivated, and self-directed, so it’s daunting. People have to walk in with the mindset that they’re ready to change and find work. Society may have turned its back on them a few times, so we are there to offer support and figure out what work they can and want to do. I really give these clients credit for coming back because it takes courage,” Loranger says.

The other challenge for Chrysalis is finding employers who are open to working with people who have criminal or transient backgrounds. Although Chrysalis doesn’t serve as an intermediary between the clients and potential employers, there are some cases in which they’ve had to explain strategies and ways of handling challenges that both employers and employees might face. But overall, they try to empower both the employee and the employer to find solutions within themselves. “We work with small local businesses and we make personal connections with the owners, humanizing homelessness by explaining that our people are real people with real families and real issues, and they are hard workers who just need a hand up, not a handout,” Loranger says.

Getting a job is a means to an end for clients at Chrysalis. With income, they can reintegrate into society, which is another long process that involves Chrysalis’ follow-up in three, six, and nine-month increments after employment. Last March the formerly incarcerated Charles Johnson, for example, was one of the people who was able to take part in Chrysalis’ tradition of ringing an employment bell in the organization’s lobby. He stood up to tell the office of his new job as a desk clerk at Skid Row Housing Trust, explained what it took to get there, and gave advice to others who were still searching. As someone who had a bright future ahead of him with a basketball scholarship at Cal Poly Pomona, Johnson thought he had a shot at joining the Golden State Warriors after college. When he wasn’t picked, he turned to gang culture, where he felt welcome.

Johnson’s story of poverty, low self-esteem, and the need to feel connected to a community is common among clients at Chrysalis. Like Johnson, Chrysalis client Eunice Boynton let her negative circumstances get in the way of a fulfilling and productive life. After her husband died of cancer, she turned to drugs and quickly lost everything she had. Chrysalis gave her the confidence to find housing and turn her setbacks into a role as manager at the Ward Hotel. Darius Coffey had spent his childhood in the foster care system and never felt wanted until he joined a gang. But when Chrysalis came into his life, he found the hope he needed to get on track, build a family, and secure employment as a food services coordinator at SRO Housing Corporation. These success stories are examples of the direct impact Chrysalis has on the Los Angeles homeless and low-income community, but Loranger stresses that the bigger issue they are trying to solve is poverty alleviation and the reintegration of homeless and formerly incarcerated people into society.

Chrysalis puts its program into action by maintaining labor-intensive social enterprises that employ its clients. These include the street-cleaning, graffiti removal, and pressure-washing service Chrysalis Works, which operates in the Business Improvement, Arts, and Fashion Districts. The staffing business Chrysalis Enterprises provides employees for janitorial and front-desk jobs at 15 institutions, including the Skid Row Housing Trust. Through these social enterprises, Chrysalis learns how to improve its job training classes, and clients learn how to process their paychecks, develop coworker relationships, and earn vocational skills.

“There’s a significant need for our services throughout the country, and the question is, how do we share our nonprofit and social enterprise models worldwide without distracting from what we do hyperlocally in Los Angeles?” Loranger says. “It’s a balancing act, because we don’t want to dilute what we’re doing here. We provide advice and counsel to programs nationwide, but I don’t presume to know what the needs are in communities like Detroit or Milwaukee, for example, so maybe we can advise on case management and forming social enterprises there without having to learn all the nuances of those cities.”

In 15 years, Loranger hopes to turn the tide on employer attitudes, erasing stigmas and the idea that hiring a homeless or formerly incarcerated individual is too risky. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that our criminal justice system is not sustainable, and if we can open employers up to hiring people with blemishes on their records, there will be less chances of those people going back to jail,” he says. Loranger also sees a future in which people’s perception of homelessness will shift, based on the humanizing storytelling Chrysalis does through its fundraisers, blogs, social media profiles, and newsletters.

Although Chrysalis is still figuring out how to replicate its nonprofit and social enterprise models nationwide and eventually worldwide, they’re consistently focused on their main mission to help low-income, homeless, and formerly incarcerated people find and retain decent work, with the overall goal of empowering them to reconnect with their families and society. “If we dream hard, the real impact isn’t the jobs we’re helping our clients find,” Loranger says. “It’s the dignity, respect, and familial connections that are formed when someone is gainfully employed. It’s massively reintegrating people into society. It’s making sure that society doesn’t have to carry our clients through welfare, but rather empower them to provide for themselves and their families.”

Articles
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Pixabay

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet