7 amazing social enterprises in LA

Skid Row Housing Trust

A name that has become synonymous with homelessness, the Skid Row district saw the destruction of 15,000 residential hotel apartments – some of LA’s most affordable accommodation – between 1950 and 2000.

Since its creation in 1989, the Skid Row Housing Trust has safeguarded and renovated many of these dilapidated buildings; it now operates 24 apartment blocks where people can begin to escape poverty.

Look out for: The Six in MacArthur Park, the Trust’s first housing for military veterans.


LA Kitchen

California wasted 36m tonnes of food in 2011 – 96% of which went straight into landfill sites. Working with local farms and wholesalers, LA Kitchen aims to repurpose 1,000,000lbs of unwanted fruit and vegetables a year as nutritious meals and snacks for the city’s social services.

It opened its new 20,000sq ft food-processing hub in Lincoln Heights last year.

Look out for: Strong Food, LA Kitchen’s social-enterprise business, providing meals for senior citizens.



40% of Los Angelenos live on or below the poverty line, set by the US government at $23,850 a year. Chrysalis helps residents in the most difficult circumstances (including the unstably housed, veterans, returning citizens, and those with a substance-abuse history) get onto the employment ladder.

Three centres, in downtown LA, Santa Monica and the San Fernando Valley, offer training and equipment to job-seekers.

Look out for: more Chrysalis candidates joining the 2,151 people who signed employment contracts last year.


Education systems worldwide are often resistant to new methods, or not adequately enough funded for the latest technology.

Born from USC research trying to link cognitive science with different forms of interactivity, GameDesk develop games and software that encourage play- and emotion-based learning.

They also run the Playmaker School in Santa Monica, which operates on the same principle: that learning and fun are not mutually exclusive.

Look out for: Pangean, one of GameDesk’s latest apps, in which players control drifting continents.


A Better LA

Gang-related murders account for over 60% of homicides among LA’s 15- to 24-year-olds.

In 2003, NFL coach Pete Carroll brought community leaders together to create A Better LA to help not only reduce that statistic, but combat the devastating mental and physical effects of growing up in a gang-dominated neighbourhood.

ABLA provides gang prevention and intervention strategies, and funds and supports similar organisations.

Look out for: License to Operate, an ABLA-produced documentary about gang interventionists in South Central LA.



Los Angeles is the US’s second-biggest city, but comes in 49th when ranked for car-free households.

CicLAvia is trying to wean Angelenos off their automobile addiction with one-day events shutting off particular neighbourhoods to traffic and opening them up to cyclists, pedestrians and skaters. Air pollution goes down by 20% while everyone is cutting loose.

Look out for: CicLAvia taking control of the streets in 2016 in the San Fernando Valley, Southeast Cities, Wilshire Boulevard and downtown.


Friends of the Los Angeles River

Once home to grizzly bears and rainbow trout, 80% of the LA river was canalised from the late 1930s onwards, creating the world’s largest storm drain. This 50-mile stretch should be returned to its natural state, say Friends of the Los Angeles River.

They’re aiming to reintegrate it back into the city with pedestrian and bike paths, encourage less brutal flood-protection measures, and educate citizens about its history.

Look out for: river cleanups at 15 different sites throughout Spring.


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