Community Making a Difference West Edition

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Organization serves residents in the Vernon-Central community

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The California Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD) was founded in 2005 to specifically service the needs of the Vernon-Central neighborhood of South Los Angeles. 

The founders all had roots in this area and wanted to ensure that the residents and small businesses had the resources they needed to thrive.

As one of the founders, current President and CEO Mark Wilson, is proud of the organization’s commitment to the neighborhood his parents grew up in. As a black man who grew up in South Los Angeles, he is all too aware of the gaps in services that exist for black youth, but after the riot of 1992, he, and the other foundersRuth M. Teague, Noemi Soto, Fernando Miranda and Hugo Ortiz, felt compelled to help bridge those gaps.  

As a result, the CRCD has a unique focus on youth ages 14-24, and collaborates actively with residents, businesses, community-based organizations, civic leaders and the local community college to improve the quality of life through a spectrum of services that include housing, education, work training and job placement.

“One of the things that makes CRCD unique is our focus on this particular population,” Wilson said. “Research shows that in this area, when you look at educational attainment, unemployment, homelessness, health issues, all the factors that are necessary to a successful future, those who fell into this particular age range were going in the wrong direction.”

To help turn youth around, the organization currently runs an alternative high school program — CRCD Academy, located on campus at LA Trade Technical College; operates Ruth’s Place, a resource for homeless or disconnected youth and young adults; runs the Vernon-Central Network Youth Source Center to help train youth for sustainable employment; and it’s social enterprise arm — CRCD Enterprises — trains and hires youth and young adults to remove graffiti and beautify the neighborhood.

CRCD also provides affordable housing and support services on-site at five permanent sites to low-income youth, young adults, families and seniors who may have special needs.

Wilson says that part of the reason that CRCD has resonated with the community is that they are a learning organization that listens to the community and is open to both new ideas and criticism in order to provide relevant and high-quality continuum of care. 

He also credits his administrative staff with being the “secret sauce” of the organization and understanding and enacting the vision in ways that will sustain the work for years to come.

While the organization has seen much growth in the past decade, it is still challenged to meet the changing needs of a community facing an increasing amount of poverty and homelessness due to changing societal landscapes. But the organization, with the help of its partners, knows that it is up to the task. 

As for the future, Wilson sees CRCD as among the thought leaders in the city, helping to lead the conversation and development of resources around housing transition age youth and ensuring that families have sustainable wages, ensuring that South Los Angeles gets the infrastructure its needs to provide affordable housing to its residents, allow its existing businesses to thrive, attract new businesses and attract developments that will hire people in the community to do the work.

“One of the things that I am proudest of is that we have given people the steps they need to succeed,” Wilson said. “When they leave us, they now know that they have choices. They can go to school, get a job, instead of feeling that there is no direction they … understand the possibilities that they have ahead, not just for themselves but for their children and community.”

INFORMATION BOX

Organization: California Coalition for Responsible Community Development

Co-Founder and CEO: Mark Wilson

Year founded: 2005

Website: www.coalitionrcd.org

By Angela N. Parker

Contributing Writer