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Skid Row Cafe Aims To Change Lives

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A cafe in downtown LA is offering job opportunities to some of the people who may be living on the sidewalks right outside its doors.

As CBSLA's Jo Kwon reports, MADE by DWC, the Downtown Women's Center's cafe and gift boutique on Skid Row, is helping the homeless one latte or bar of soap at a time.

Levi Tristao works near the cafe where he usually orders an almond latte. He says he visits daily.

"The coffee is great. The customer service is even better," said Tristao.

Those providing that service are women who were formerly homeless -- maybe even lived on the street right outside the cafe's doors.

Or like Shenette Holman is still currently homeless. The mom of four has been homeless for three years.

"I ended up homeless when my family lost our home in 2015 due to foreclosure," said Holman.

She's now one of the paid trainees in the Downtown Women's Center workforce development program.

All proceeds from the cafe and the store go to helping women like Holman transition out of homelessness.

"I don't like asking for things. I don't like being another needy person," said Holman.

The center's trainees earn $12 an hour and up.

"They work behind the counter, making lattes, serving food. But we also sell products that the women make," said DWC CEO Lisa Watson.

From journals to bags to greeting cards, all of the goods are handmade. The products are also upcycled. The tea cups that are now candles were donated. And if you take a look at the soap they're covered with pages from a book.

Just this week Holman made candles in the center's workshop and store down the street.

"Oh my gosh there are so many wonderful scents," said Holman.

Through the center, Holman has also been able to take a class in technology.

"I can design websites and make soap at the same time. So, I mean, the sky is the limit. Who knows where I'm going to end up," said Holman.

Tristao says before today he didn't know his latte was helping women like Holman.

"It makes me want to come here more to keep places like this thriving," said Tristao.

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