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Helping to Empower Women Experiencing Homelessness with the Downtown Women’s Center

Downtown LA Womens Center

November 22, 2022

Universal Parks & Resorts is passionate about making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. We partner with local organizations in the communities we serve to offer a variety of innovative programs, volunteer support and charitable contributions.

An area of focus for Universal Studios Hollywood is working to end homelessness and empowering those in need by creating a powerful partnership with the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC). The DWC is the only non-profit organization in the greater Los Angeles area working to end women’s homelessness through housing, wellness, employment, and advocacy.

For the past 10 years, Universal and DWC have worked together to help those in need through the creation of a health and wellness program called Whole Women’s Saturday. It was started by Sondra Salas, a Universal Studios Hollywood Team Member who was determined to have every woman who comes through the center feel like a person that matters. 

“They [DWC] are incredible,” says Sondra Salas. “It’s because of them that we are able to provide these empowerment workshops, on-site resources, care and attention to these participants who really feel this in-person connection. We are really a part of their community and they are a part of ours.”

This monthly, woman-led empowerment workshop features enrichment activities to motivate the women in a safe environment. And despite a brief postponement due to the COVID pandemic, the programs have made a strong return and impact with generally 40 participants and 20 Universal volunteers.

“Even though the past couple of years while the pandemic happened, people still remember, and they still want to come back” says Jeanine Berganza, Mobile Employment Coordinator with Downtown Women’s Center. “It [Whole Women’s Saturday] just adds a level of experience and excitement that some people wouldn’t otherwise have.”

This program — along with the other services offered by DWC like career development, trauma recovery, and more — has made a tremendous impact on the community and the inspiring women who attend the center. It’s an impact that will grow and deepen as we continue to fight together to end homelessness.

“They are supportive and understanding… they restored my self-respect, my self-confidence,” says Dorothy Godes, a resident and advocate of DWC for 14 years. “The Women’s Center is very well-equipped to handle any and every situation.”

“I think that the Downtown Women’s Center, as much as I hope to bring to them monthly and teach them, I realize that they’ve taught me a lot more than I’ve ever taught them,” says Sondra Salas.