By Laurel Busby
Chrysalis, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping both homeless and low-income people develop self-sufficiency, provides 48 hours of street maintenance each week in the Palisades.
Three Chrysalis team members pick up trash in both the Village and Marquez business block plus sweep the sidewalks and otherwise clean the Village for eight hours a day, twice a week. The cost for their services is shared by the Pacific Palisades Business Improvement District (BID), which strictly provides money towards the Village expenses, and the Palisades Chamber of Commerce. For the employees, the jobs are a stepping stone that provides training, confidence and an employer reference, according to Mark Loranger, the president and CEO of Chrysalis.
“The work is not that technical and not that glamorous, but it gives them the self-confidence to know that they can come in every day, work on a team, and take supervision,” said Loranger, who noted that two of the current Palisades employees receive minimum wage while the third is a supervisor who earns a couple of dollars extra per hour. “For the men and women who transition out of the program, over 70 percent are now working in other jobs.”
A new assessment of 55 landlords in the Village provides funding for the BID, which will spend about $37,000 of its $142,000 budget this year for Chrysalis’ services, said Laurie Sale, the organization’s executive director.
“We are very thankful for the consistently professional services they provide,” Sale said. “Their workers are diligent, hard-working, friendly and thorough.”
In the current annual contract, the Chamber of Commerce pays a base amount of about $30,000 ($2,480 per month), all of which is raised via donations. However, on occasion the chamber also requests additional Chrysalis services for various special events like the Community Expo & Classic Car Display, so the cost can rise a little for each event, perhaps adding an extra $1,000 during the year.
Arnie Wishnick, the chamber’s executive director, said that Chrysalis employees have “gone above and beyond” in cleaning up trash, eliminating graffiti, cutting weeds, plus addressing other issues that are not covered by the contract.
“Whenever they see things that don’t look presentable, they take action,” Wishnick said. “We don’t even tell them to. They’re so good about that.”
He also appreciated the chamber’s ability to provide support for the workers. “It’s helping these people get back on their feet and get a job,” Wishnick said. “They’re good people that need a break.”
The BID and chamber funds not only provide for the three employees’ services, but also pay for the necessary supplies and cleaning equipment, workers compensation fees, taxes and a vehicle to transport the workers, their gear and the trash they gather.
The Chamber first began contracting with Chrysalis in 2003 using seed money from realtor Michael Edlen, who said he still contributes at least $7,500 to the chamber each year for Chrysalis. Wishnick said this year, donations overall are about $10,000 below normal, but often December is a strong month for giving to the effort.
Each year across the metro area, about 600 clients are employed by Chrysalis doing either street maintenance or staffing work, which can include clerical and janitorial services, Losanger said. These clients generally work for 6 to 12 months with the nonprofit before finding outside employment. Since it was founded more than 30 years ago, the organization has helped more than 55,000 people in their effort to leave homelessness behind.
“The chance to work at a transitional job is often the step they need to get a foothold onto their path to self-sufficiency,” Loranger said. “The whole point is not just that they get a job, but that they hold it. The research says that if they can hold a job for at least six months, then their whole life trajectory changes.”
This means they are more likely to stay out of prison, maintain stable housing, have better health outcomes, and significantly decrease their reliance on public support, Loranger noted.
A Chrysalis client participates in a job-prep curriculum, sets goals for a job search, and also can access the organization’s computer lab, message center, professional clothing closet, hygiene kits and bus tokens, Loranger said. The program is designed to eliminate potential barriers towards gaining and keeping employment.
Just in the Palisades, Loranger estimated that Chrysalis has employed 50 to 60 people over the years, and the town has proved to be a particularly popular work location—not simply because of its beauty, but mainly because of how kind Palisadians have been to the workers.
“When they get a quick thank you from a business owner or a customer coming out of Starbucks, it means a lot to them,” said Loranger, who noted that many of Chrysalis’ clients have previously experienced a negative life situation. “It’s a little thing for you or me, but when they can be in a positive environment that is supportive, it really helps them take the next step in improving their lives.”
For more information, visit http://www.changelives.org.