Urban Alchemy Practitioners Calm the Streets of Los Angeles
For years, Los Angeles police have been challenged by how to respond to calls about unhoused Angelenos.
Then came CIRCLE, a new project initiated by the Mayor’s office and run by people who were once incarcerated and now work for Urban Alchemy. They were called to the scene because Urban Alchemy’s Practitioners know how to compassionately approach individuals struggling with homelessness and too often mental health conditions.
“The CIRCLE project provides alternative engagement, so when someone calls 911, instead of police being dispatched, one of our Practitioners will go out and de-escalate the situation, often bringing unhoused residents to decompression centers that provide a safe and comfortable respite from the streets,” says Kirkpatrick Tyler, Chief of Government and Community Affairs.
Since it was founded in 2018, the fast-growing nonprofit has helped transform men and women who’d done time behind bars for decades into community treasures. And they provide good paying jobs with a career path in four cities in Northern and Southern California, and Texas.
From parolees to Practitioners, the nonprofit’s more than 1,300 employees have engaged unhoused residents, promoted positive behavior, and connected people to local services.
They’ve removed tons of garbage from the streets, restoring pride to neighborhoods. They’ve established and overseen bathrooms and showers, restoring dignity to those in need.
They’ve developed and operated safe camping, safe parking, tiny homes, and hotels, restoring the security of a good night’s sleep.
In the past year alone, Urban Alchemy Practitioners have saved the lives of more than 700 people through overdose reversals. In Los Angeles they helped locate safe camping areas and tiny home villages for unhoused residents to replace blocks of lawless sidewalk encampments.
The Crisis and Incident Response Through Community-Led Engagement (CIRCLE) team has, since January, responded to 3,000 non-emergency incidents in Venice and Hollywood. Due in part to Urban Alchemy’s work, these neighborhoods have seen a 50% reduction in unsheltered homelessness.
In 2023, Urban Alchemy Practitioners equipped with Narcan anti-opioid spray, face masks, first aid kits, and other supplies will expand into the San Fernando Valley, South Los Angeles, and Downtown Los Angeles.
Practitioners operate from decompression centers where unhoused residents can get food and a place to rest. They focus on community engagement within homeless encampments and crisis response, ranging from noise complaints, to loitering, to someone having an emotional meltdown.
It’s working. Incidents are being defused, drug overdoses reversed, and unhoused residents allowed safe solace.
“It’s about building trust,” says James, manager of L.A.’s CIRCLE project, who has done prison time. “When we first came around, people saw our neon vests and thought we were police. Now people see us, and they know we’re friends.
“I was once part of the problem that created this mess, and now I am part of the solution.”
Chief Growth Officer: Jeff Kositsky
We aim to raise the vibrations in urban spaces – and save the lives of those who exist on their streets.
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After having spent most of my life incarcerated, I am so grateful for the opportunities that Urban Alchemy has given me. I have been allowed to grow and advance. I have been able to truly give back for the first time in my life. I cannot think of another company that would have done this.
Los Angeles Job Creation
Urban Alchemy is seeking support for its campaign to hire more people who have been incarcerated to help unhoused residents and keep neighborhoods safe and clean. For formerly incarcerated people with people skills, emotional intelligence, and empathy, Urban Alchemy provides a living wage and excellent benefits.
“Your support will help Urban Alchemy develop more jobs, uplift more neighborhoods, and provide complementary strategies to policing,’’ says Bayron Wilson, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, who was once incarcerated. “It’s a revolutionary and simple idea, but nobody thought of it before. Urban Alchemy has turned the whole notion of incarceration on its head.”
In the midst of an unrelenting homelessness crisis, Urban Alchemy is forging a hopeful path. You can join them.
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Yerba Buena Lodge No. 15