Last week, 62 residents of housing projects in Watts and Mar Vista took part in a workshop aimed at giving them more control over where they live.
Hosted by Loyola Marymount University and offered through the Nickerson Gardens Resident Management Corp., the three-day workshop prepared the residents for community jobs with the goal that eventually they will co-manage their projects with the city's housing authority. "With experience, they can run these facilities at a lower price and can provide jobs for the community," said Loyola Marymount professor of management David Boje, who helped begin the program three years ago after a visit to Nickerson Gardens. "It can also be a way out."
As a result of the first training program, seven residents of Nickerson Gardens are now employed as gardeners, maintenance workers or typists at the projects. Though there are only two positions currently open in that community, Boje said this year's workshop will aid in creating a temporary employment agency for Nickerson Gardens residents, who make up the bulk of the workshop's participants.
Through the agency, residents will be able to work for various city departments on a short-term basis if regular city employees are sick or on vacation, or if the departments need more personnel. Boje says workshop participants were also given access to a 12-week training program for those who want to start their own businesses.
To further help would-be entrepreneurs, Boje envisions enlisting an eight-member team of Peace Corps volunteers experienced in helping economically disadvantaged communities. They would provide training and follow-up in "micro-enterprise" for two years, he said, and might also live in the projects.
The workshop was scheduled to conclude with a graduation ceremony Friday afternoon at the university. Residents of the Hacienda Village, Imperial Courts and Jordan Downs housing projects also attended the workshop.