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.”


He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

Keep Reading Show less
via Imgur

Every few years there's something that goes mega viral because people can't decide what it is.

There was the famous "is it blue and black, or white and gold" dress?

There was the audio recording that said either "yanny" or "Laurel."

Keep Reading Show less

Rochester NY Airport Security passing insulting notes to travelers caught on tape

Neil Strassner was just passing through airport security, something he does on a weekly basis as part of his job. That's when a contract airport security employee handed him a small piece of folded cardboard. Strassner, 40, took the paper and continued on his way. He only paused when he heard the security employee shouting back at him, "You going to open the note?"

When he unfolded the small piece of paper, Strassner was greeted with an unprompted insult. "You ugly!!!"

According to Strassner, and in newly released CCTV of the incident, the woman who handed him the note began laughing loudly.

Keep Reading Show less
Creative Commons

National Tell a Joke Day dates back to 1944 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was having a meeting with Vice-President, Henry Wallace. The two men were tired and depressed due to the stress caused by leading a country through world war.

During a lull in the meeting, Wallace said, "Frank, to cheer you up I have a joke I'd like to share."

"Let's have it, Henry," Roosevelt replied while ashing his cigarette.

"Why did the chicken cross the road?" Wallace asked. "Not sure," Roosevelt replied.

"To get to the other side," Wallace responded.

Roosevelt laughed so hard that the bourbon he was drinking sprayed out of his nose and onto the floor of the oval office.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Coal mining is on the decline, leaving many coal miners in West Virginia without jobs. The Mine Safety and Health Administration says there are about 55,000 positions, and just 13,000 of those jobs are in West Virginia. The dwindling amount of work is leaving some struggling to make a living, but the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective is giving those coal miners a way to find new jobs and make a supplemental income as coal mining diminishes.

The Appalachian Beekeeping Collective trains coal miners and other low-income residents in mining communities to keep bees. Some coal miners are getting retrained to work in the tech industry, however beekeeping allows coal miners to continue to work in a job that requires a similar skill set. "The older folks want to get back to work, but mining is never going to be like it was in the '60s and '70s, and there is nothing to fall back on, no other big industries here, so all of these folks need retraining," former coal miner James Scyphers told NPR. "Beekeeping is hands-on work, like mining, and requires on-the-job training. You need a good work ethic for both."

Keep Reading Show less