Making a Difference West Edition

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Coalition seeks to responsibly transform neighborhoods

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — In response to the challenges that the underserved black and Latino youth face in South Los Angeles, several community members got together in 2005 in an effort to transform those neighborhoods.

They created the Coalition for Responsible Community Development, a nonprofit co-founded by Mark A. Wilson, Ruth M. Teague, Noemi Soto, Fernando Miranda and Hugo Ortiz.

It began its work doing graffiti abasement for the city of Los Angeles. The city would hire youth on a temporary basis, many of whom were doing community service hours for having been caught doing graffiti.

Soon after, its efforts expanded to further improve the quality of life of residents in South Los Angeles’ Vernon-Central neighborhood, an area that had been overlooked for many years and had a high concentration of poverty and unemployment.

Rebecca Gray, the coalition’s senior grant manager, said that institutions and private businesses have pulled away from investing in South Los Angeles communities for at least five decades.

“There aren’t enough businesses to employ area workers,” Gray said. “The government and corporations have not provided services [to the community] to cover gaps and train people, so the neighborhoods have been in disarray.”

After recognizing all of the needs and issues in the neighborhoods, the co-founders also saw enormous opportunity and potential among the youth.

Their work doing graffiti abasement soon evolved into training, educational and employment experience programs and opportunities for youth ages 16 to 25.

Its South L.A. Youth Building Program gives youth the opportunity to earn high school diplomas, get training from Los Angeles Trade Technical College and receive credentials in construction work.

Aside from learning leadership and cooperation skills, the students are given opportunities to give back to their communities by doing service projects, including building affordable housing units.

In 2011, the coalition began building affordable housing units in the area with the help of some of its partnerships. Together, they invested $103 million to constructing economic housing, a homeless youth drop-in center, a community garden and more.

The organization has since built 318 low-cost units for qualified youth, seniors, families and special needs individuals.

Its workforce training programs continue to grow with the times. In addition to construction training, community members can learn skills in digital media and environmentally aware fields of construction, like installing solar energy panels.

Since its inception, more than 1,000 youth have been linked with opportunities, and the number is only growing.

The coalition has partnerships with local organizations and institutions including the city of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, Los Angeles Trade Technical College and All Peoples Community Center, among others.

The Coalition for Responsible Community Development’s vision is to minimize and eliminate the barriers that have long existed in South L.A.’s Vernon-Central neighborhoods. By building a community where its conditions fulfill the basic needs of its youth, the youth, in turn, can become active contributors to their communities.

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Name of organization: Coalition for Responsible Community Development

CEO: co-founded by Mark A. Wilson, Ruth M. Teague, Noemi Soto, Fernando Miranda, and Hugo Ortiz

Annual budget: $6 million

Number of employees: 48 full time, 36 summer youth part time for 8 or 12 weeks

Years in operation: 12 years

Main office: 3101 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90007.

Programs/services: youth development, education, worksource center, support services, real estate and economic development, enterprises