A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

Beyond Housing Stability to Economic Opportunity


Funders Together Los Angeles hosted a panel discussion to examine traditional workforce models, the current role social enterprises play in employing LA’s homeless and formerly homeless communities, and new opportunities in the field.


In June, the Los Angeles Chapter of Funders to End Homelessness gathered to learn and discuss new models that create pathways for individuals experiencing homelessness to gain greater economic opportunity. Facilitated by REDF, a venture philanthropy firm that provides money, know-how, and networks to help build social enterprises, the convening delved into innovative approaches to solving the challenges of employment and homelessness in Los Angeles.

Joined by, Mark Loranger, Chrysalis President and Chief Executive Officer, Mike Alvidrez, Skid Row Housing Trust Executive Director, and Robert Sainz, City of Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department, Assistant General Manager, the panelists represented various roles and partnerships working to create jobs and employ those facing the greatest barriers to work in Los Angeles.

What is Social Enterprise?

The term “social enterprise” has garnered much attention in recent years. In general, it refers to businesses whose primary purpose is the common good. These enterprises use the methods and disciplines of business and the power of the marketplace to advance their social, environmental and human justice agendas. As it relates to addressing individuals who experienced homelessness, REDF defines social enterprises as mission-driven businesses focused on employment - hiring and assisting people who face barriers to work. Often these enterprises are nonprofit organizations that run businesses, which compete in the market with a product or service, and provide transitional, wage paying employment with support services necessary to succeed in the job.

Chrysalis: A Social Enterprise Leading the Way

Chrysalis President and CEO, Mark Loranger spoke about two of their social enterprises, Chrysalis Works and Chrysalis Staffing. He explained that individuals who need more support are those who are typically hired at Chrysalis Works. The experience of coming to work in the morning, being part of a team, learning how to communicate with fellow staff and managers are the necessary first steps in helping these clients strengthen their basic soft skills so that they become job ready. Once they are, this unique model helps them transition to Chrysalis Staffing. Chrysalis Staffing also allows prospective employees who are interested in hiring their clients try each other out to make sure there is a good fit. This unique approach provides a solution to mitigate risk and cost for the next stage employer while providing the opportunity for social enterprise employees to find the best match for their interests and skills.

Skid Row Housing Trust: A Permanent Supportive Housing Provider and Employer Contracting with Social Enterprises

Skid Row Housing Trust (Trust), a Permanent Supportive Housing provider, identified a gap in their business and recognized a partnership with a social enterprise like Chrysalis could be advantageous. Because the Trust houses a very high need population, Executive Director Mike Alvidrez knew he needed staff who could understand and relate to their residents. As a result, Skid Row Housing Trust and Chrysalis developed a hiring partnership in 2011 to source social enterprise candidates to be permanently employed at the Trust. Since the start of the partnership, the organization has hired 115 individuals for roles in front desk/lobby services, janitorial, and unit turnovers. Alvidrez’s outlook really honed in on the point that the Trust has a property management business and within that are employment and contracting needs. Therefore, it makes sense for his organization to create opportunities for impact beyond housing.

City of Los Angeles: Local Government Partner and Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise

In Los Angeles, there is a robust $40M workforce system to assist individuals gain employment, through a system called the WorkSource system. Unfortunately, the system has not focused on homeless individuals or those with multiple barriers. Assistant General Manager Robert Sainz shared that their system is based on placements and working with a high barrier population requires more supports and resources. As a result, the City of LA is embarking on a Department of Labor Workforce Innovation Fund project, in partnership with REDF, called LA:RISE to create a continuum of employment opportunities through social enterprise while integrating the WorkSource system. Sainz hopes that by connecting various partners from business, government, nonprofit, and philanthropy, Los Angeles can really begin to change systems to better integrate and coordinate activities for achieving scale.

The ideas, perspectives, and results shared throughout the convening provided the Los Angeles Chapter of Funders to End Homelessness a new outlook on the impacts of social enterprise and the synergies with supportive housing providers and their role as employers. One of the biggest needs is to identify employers willing to hire people who have experienced homelessness and supportive housing’s property services could be a potential sector that impacts at a level of scale. Additional points that resulted from the conversations were issues around government benefits and the support needed for individuals moving away from government assistance to earned income, benefits of employment opportunity tied with education and skill development, and how funders can support this work going forward, including contracting with social enterprises for services. This was an exciting initial convening and discussion looking beyond housing and towards economic opportunity for homeless individuals. 



 Vivienne Lee is the Regional Director of Southern California at REDF, where she leads the organization’s expansion strategy and creates pilot programs that can serve as models as REDF scales a social enterprise ecosystem region-wide.

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We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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