After Liza left home at a young age, she cycled in and out of prison for many years due to involvement with drugs and gangs.
Following her release from what would be her last prison sentence, she knew that she needed to make drastic changes in her life if she would ever regain custody of her children. So she went out to look for a job.
“She was on parole and had her ankle monitor, and she walked into Chrysalis not knowing if she could change,” said Molly Moen, vice president of development and communications for the nonprofit Chrysalis. “She didn’t know her self-worth.”
Liza, a pseudonym used to protect her privacy, started taking classes offered by Chrysalis and got a transitional job doing street sweeping on sidewalks, graffiti removal and other similar tasks.
“It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it was job and it made her feel she was doing something for her community and making changes,” Moen said.
From there, it was all uphill for Liza. She landed a job doing order fulfillment for another organization, graduated from a program at Pepperdine University, and is now starting her own cleaning business. She has since regained custody of one of her three children.
This is one of thousands of success stories that have come out of Chrysalis since its founding in 1984. What started as a food and clothing distribution center evolved into an organization that now strives to end homelessness. And it does so by helping homeless and low-income people find and keep jobs.
At the center of the organization’s programs is its core curriculum. Job-readiness classes prepare clients for employment by helping them improve their job search skills, boosting their self-confidence, training them in customer service, practicing interviews, completing job applications and providing one-on-one resume writing.
In addition, employees at Chrysalis figure out and help address any barriers a person might have that could interfere with finding and keeping a job, Moen said.
“[We find out if] they have a stable place to live, have any outstanding health issues, if they have access to transportation,” Moen said. “We then help them apply for jobs and support them once they land jobs.”
But those with increased barriers who might need a bit more support can join Chrysalis Enterprises, the same transitional job program that helped Liza get on her feet.
Once in, people can work with Chrysalis for 3 to 12 months for minimum wage or more. During those months, clients learn hard and soft skills like how to show up to work on time and how to work as a team, all while building confidence and gaining experience for future employment.
And when an individual finds employment elsewhere, Chrysalis continues to support them.
“We follow up with folks after they land a job to make sure they’re still working,” Moen said. “If they’re not, we connect them back to our services and try to get them a job again.”
Of all the people that the nonprofit has helped find employment, nearly 70 percent are still working six months after they landed the job.
“Six months is that turning point where they can change their life trajectory,” Moen said, where people find stability and an overall improvement in health.
And Chrysalis hopes to continue helping people get off the streets and join the workforce for more years to come.
“We’re looking at other communities in Southern California where it makes sense to expand,” Moen said. “We’ll keep helping people get back to work … and want to double the job outcomes for clients over five years.”
CEO/President: Mark Loranger
Years in operation: 33
Annual budget: $16 million
Number of employees: 120 permanent, 300 transitional
Downtown L.A. Location: 522 S. Main St., Los Angeles 90013