About Would Works
"I Would Work if I Could"
Would Works is an LA based social enterprise that employs and trains people experiencing homelessness in the craft of woodworking. Through hands-on work with tangible outcomes, our Artisans build confidence & community while forging a pathway to self-sufficiency.
To see the wood transform very quickly and feel that sense of accomplishment... it makes you feel valuable, it makes you feel accomplished, and competent. It makes you feel like you can achieve these longer life goals--the ones where you don't see results so quickly.
Artisans are referred to our program by employment counselors and housing case managers from various Los Angeles organizations that serve the unhoused population, such as; Chrysalis Employment Services, Jovenes, Downtown Women’s Center, and America's Job Center of Callifornia.
Our Artisans often face multiple barriers to employment; including housing insecurity, justice involvement, mental or physical health challenges, along with institutional factors such as hiring discrimination and systemic racism. Would Works provides a flexible, creative, and trauma informed space for anyone who Would Work if they could, to (re)engage with employment.
Artisans range in age from transition aged youth to seniors, and 62% of our Artisans served are female identified.
By providing work experience and resources to those who need it most, Would Works offers critical support to individuals experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles' Skid Row. But beyond that, Artisans build community and life skills in a space were they are treated with dignity and care.
Would Works hosts 200 woodworking workshops annually providing over 6,000 hours of paid employment,healing community, and hands on woodworking training for people experiencing homelessness or extreme poverty in Los Angeles.
Our workshops take place at our shop in Downtown LA and are divided into three core programs:
- Beginner Builder Program: BBP meets twice a week with cohorts of 4-6 Artisans for six month sessions. In these workshops, paid Artisans learn how to sand, finish, brand, and package our line of wood homewares, available for purchase on our website, wholesale and through pop up events.
- Young Makers Program: YMP is a branch of the beginner program specifically designed for transition age youth. In each 6 month cohort, young Artisans learn the same skills as the Beginner Builders with an added emphasis on career discovery, cultivated of soft job skills, and exposure to the greater LA woodworking community.
- Community Builders Program: CBP is an ongoing employment opportunity for Artisans who have completed our beginners or youth program and want to learn more advanced techniques such as machining, design, and furniture fabrication. Community Builders create outdoor furniture for community spaces and supportive housing sites throughout LA.
Our story is one of listening to people in need and coming up with a way to help.
In 2012 Would Works founder Connor Johnson was working at a homeless shelter in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles. He met hundreds of people who stayed in the area. He listened to their hopes and dreams and the obstacles they face every day. Time and again he would hear them say - I WOULD WORK... if I could.
He started Would Works with the help of friends and family and ran weekend workshops in church basements and housing site rec rooms throughout Skid Row.
Ten years + later, with the support of Nick Offerman, the Los Angeles woodworking community, and a strong network of homeless services providers in Skid Row, Would Works has grown into a thriving social enterprise.
When not at Would Works, Michele designs and builds furniture for her studio The Neverending Balloon. She holds a Masters degree in Social Design from Design Academy Eindhoven and a Certificate in Healthier Materials + Sustainable Building from Parsons School of Design. At WW she focuses on program design, product design, and is particularly interested in (re)designing community spaces to foster social transformation.
Lee has been with Would Works since the 2016 relaunch. Since then, Lee is grateful to have learned so much from the Would Works Artisans, other service providers and the community advocates in and around Skid Row. Lee is a woodworker, teacher, and parent.
Shop Manager + Workshop Leader
Briana grew up in Santa Ana and attended Cal State Long Beach where she received a BFA in design with an emphasis on material studies. Briana is grateful for opportunities to support the growth of others--when not at Would Works, she can be found teaching woodworking at various shops & schools around LA. Her dog Saylor is often found making appearances on our social media platforms!
Benjamin Gonzalez is a furniture and cabinet maker based in Los Angeles, California (Tongva Land). Born and raised in Boyle Heights, he is the son of Mexican immigrant parents, and a proud father. Ben has over a decade of experience in the craft. He is grateful to the Would Works Artisans whom he has learned so much from. Social justice serves as his life's guiding principle, and he is passionate about weaving this commitment into his work and community.
Shirley was born and raised in Compton, California. Before coming to Would Works, she worked as a caretaker in a convalescent home and a security guard. Shirley was an exceptional Would Works Artisan for three years before becoming the Artisan Lead. Shirley has two daughters and is a dedicated grandmother.
Would Works thanks the following funders for their support:
We rely on the generous in-kind donations from the following community partners: