Building Resilience in South LA Café: Empowering a Community

The South LA Café and Resilience Center is not just a coffeehouse or community center; it's a symbol of empowerment and resilience.
Written by Resilient Cities Network
Wednesday, 20 September 2023

The South LA Café and Resilience Center is not just a coffeehouse or community center; it’s a symbol of empowerment and resilience. Born from a history of adversity, it stands as a sanctuary for Black and Brown communities by preserving culture, fostering empowerment and building on the strength of diversity. With the support of Resilient Community Impact Funds (RCIFunds), it is now expanding its reach and impact for South Central Los Angeles to build climate resilience.

The Challenge

South Central Los Angeles, a historically Black and Brown community, has shown resilience in the face of adversity. Historic disinvestment, redlining and gentrification threaten cultural erasure and displacement, jeopardizing the vibrant identity that the community has fought so hard to maintain. In the midst of social stresses, Los Angeles has been experiencing intensifying climatic events, like heat waves and wildfires, with heat exceeding the 90th percentile in August and September. This is all exacerbated by the growing urban heat island effect. Communities in south Los Angeles are far less prepared to fence off these extreme events. According to a 2020 study by USC, only 41% of South LA residents had access to air conditioning in their residences, compared to the 68% city average.

The South LA Café and Resilience Center, a local minority-owned community center and small business, recognized the need to address the shocks and stresses facing its community and created a place where community activism and opportunity can thrive. The center serves as a vital hub for community equity building by offering resources, training and support for residents to navigate social challenges. Amid the growing climate crisis, the center now looks to enhance community members’ capacity to respond and adapt to the intensifying effects of climate change by incorporating resilience into trainings and events.

The Solution

In partnership with the City of Los Angeles and its network of community resilience hubs, the South LA Café devised a comprehensive solution to enhance its existing programs. With the support of the Resilient Community Impact Funds (RCIFunds), the Café will integrate resilience principles into its core programming with the addition of training for emergency management and resilience building for small businesses and entrepreneurs. This approach is aimed at empowering individuals, families, and small local businesses in South LA to prepare for, cope with, and recover from disasters. 

“The RCIFunds grant allows us to survey our community and learn how we can support them to be more resilient in the face of growing shocks and stresses. With this information, we can provide access to resources, tools and education to better prepare and empower them to prepare for emergency response and daily living. Through this process, we will focus on hyper-local community building and developing resilient infrastructure on a block by block basis,”

Celia Ward-Wallace, Co-Founder/CEO of South LA Cafe & SLAC Foundation.

The Café Academy is a program that provides participants with on-the-job training in industries like Green Tech and Hospitality while building transferable skills that can be applied across various sectors. The program is founded on the Pillars of the South LA Resilience Center: empowering families, creating community, and building the economy. 

Our Impact

Participants begin training in entry-level positions within the cafe’s ecosystem, receiving living wages and opportunities for advancement through versatile job training and development. The job skills program provides opportunities for positions within the café, food market, the center, or the South LA Community Foundation and South LA Food Network, which are partners to South LA Resilience Center.

By incorporating disaster resilience into its community-focused programs, the South LA Café is actively building readiness and recovery capabilities into individual learning, community cohesion, and small business planning. This helps prepare the community to face the future challenges it can encounter in a rapidly changing environment.

Want to learn more about RCIFunds? 

Visit RCIFunds Page or access our press release.

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