My name is Geovany Garcia. I’m an intern with Ernst and Young LLP and I was lent to United Way of Greater L.A.’s financial stability team for the last month of my internship. During my four weeks here, I’ve enjoyed a wide array of experiences that I won’t soon forget.
One event in particular which really stands out is a tour I recently took of Chrysalis, a local UWGLA partner in the Skid Row area dedicated to assisting homeless and low-income individuals hoping to secure and maintain employment.
Having lived in L.A. County my entire life, homelessness is an issue that I was always aware of but never fully grasped. The tour offered a crash course in this social problem as well as an inspiring look at how people are doing their part to lend a helping hand to the most forgotten members of our community.
When I arrived at the Chrysalis facility along with eight other United Way staff members, we were greeted by Michael Graff, Vice President of Programs and Communications, and Site Director Neidy Portillo-Tseng. After hearing a brief history of how the nonprofit organization was founded, we were guided to the back of the building where we saw firsthand what their mission was all about.
The first thing you notice when you enter are rows of desktop computers which clients can use to search and apply for jobs. A small room on the right houses a large collection of professional clothing and accessories which they can borrow for upcoming job interviews. As you walk down the hall, you see several offices where clients receive personalized guidance from their case managers on what they need to improve upon in order to obtain employment. And last but certainly not least are the classrooms where they can learn various soft skills such as computer literacy and resume-building.
The next part of the tour was both an eye-opening and heartbreaking experience. I was completely dumbfounded by the sheer number of people who are currently living on the streets of Skid Row and by how many members of our community are truly in need. I saw a homeless woman pushing a cart of what were perhaps the only things she could claim as her own; others had nothing but the tattered clothes on their backs. As we continued on, we saw countless others in the exact same situation.
After returning to the Chrysalis offices, we were introduced to Belinda Muhammed who moved to Los Angeles on her own and with very little money to support herself. Given her difficult situation, she came to Skid Row with nothing but faith in the idea that things would somehow work out for the best. With Chrysalis’ help, she was able to rise above her tragic circumstances, to find employment and build a stable future.
The day I spent at Chrysalis and the weeks I’ve spent at United Way have given me valuable insight into what it really means to help those in need. I believe every human being, regardless of race, gender or social class, is entitled to a quality of life that those of us who are more fortunate often take for granted.
Although poverty is clearly a difficult problem to solve, I know that if we simply work together, we can overcome anything.