As one of South Los Angeles’ legacy nonprofits, Community Build, Inc. (CBI) was founded on the principle that support and change start at the community level. The agency was created by Brenda Shockley and Congresswoman Maxine Waters as a response to the conditions that led to the 1992 Civil Unrest in Los Angeles.

Community Build’s programs reinforce pathways to self-sufficiency through community economic development service. South Los Angeles residents receive resources such as family support, delinquency prevention, gang intervention and prevention, employment skills, college preparation, financial counseling, health promotion and crisis intervention.

Robert Sausedo succeeded Shockley as Community Build president and CEO in 2018, after 25 years of working in fields of renewable energy, public service and social justice.  Over the course of his career, Sausedo learned valuable lessons in how government and corporations can partner with communities to drive and affect change. This is a skill set that he uses regularly to impact the status quo.

During his tenure at the helm of CBI, Sausedo has developed and fortified several programs that provide an economic and social foundation for South Los Angeles.

At the beginning of the pandemic, by tapping into established networks and leveraging assets and resources, Sausedo co-founded the Community Response System of South Los Angeles (CRSSLA).

Prior to the start of the pandemic, 43% of the 230,000 households in South Los Angeles struggled with food insecurity.  As the pandemic lingered and the employment in the region skyrocketed and the lack of food became a crisis.  Food banks and shelters were unable to meet the needs of the population. Sausedo and co-founder Cheryl Branch mobilized 32 organizations to become hubs for critically needed community services.  

Since March of 2020, CRSSLA has distributed over 20 million pounds of food at dozens of locations through its partner agencies. Mental health services, housing assistance, telehealth services are also part of CRSSLA’s network of assistance programs.  CRSSLA member agencies have become distribution centers and have the resources to deploy emergency response and community health workers to hard to reach areas where the need is most critical.

CRSSLA’s education committee, instituted a training curriculum to assist education case managers to track and monitor student engagement while learning at home. Over 100 attendees from 45 agencies, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, participated in the 90-minute training sessions.

CRSSLA has become one of CBI’s most visible accomplishments. Sausedo was able to get organizations that had never worked together before to break through the barriers of individual organizations and work as a team to create something that is sustainable and scalable. CRSSLA’s reach expands across several council districts in South Los Angeles and there is now a San Diego chapter.  

In a town hall meeting, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti acknowledged CRSSLA’s impact. “This is a model that is not only saving lives in Los Angeles, this is a model that will go statewide and national,” said Garcetti.

Sausedo considers the establishment of a partnership with Dad’s Back Academy, a nonprofit organization that works with men reentering society after long term incarceration, something that works most efficiently at the grassroots level. CBI’s a Community Health Worker (CHW) Program provides temporary jobs for individuals who have difficulty obtaining traditional employment. Through this program, 200 individuals – including 80 ex-felons from Dad’s Back Academy – have received temporary work assignments paying a wage of $20/hour for community work such as Census canvassing in neighborhoods where the return of Census forms were low and distributing COVID-19 personal protective equipment and safety information to individuals experiencing homelessness.

CBI was one of the first nonprofit to part to partner with Lyft to provide free rides for essential workers and individuals needing transportation to vaccine appointments. The agency also partnered with organizers at mass vaccination sites in South Los Angeles, such as Kedren Community Health Center, the Forum and Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza to create messaging and a toll free number (877) VAC-RYDE to persuade vaccine hesitant African Americans to get vaccinated.

Other Community Build flagship programs include:

• Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) provides wrap-around services to at-risk, probationary and/or gang involved youth between the ages of 14 and 25. GRYD’s goal is to provide employment and/or vocational training, resulting in employment with benefits and a livable wage to ensure long-term success and overall improvement in their quality of life. Each year program managers work with up to 500 individuals and families to provide a safety net of services.

• Safe Passage Program assists school students, individuals and families to travel safely within the community, especially to and from school or recreation areas such as parks. The program is composed of local residents, business owners, parent volunteers, schools and local law Robert enforcement

• Homeless Outreach Referral Services offers case managed homeless services for individuals enrolled in CBI programs through onsite representation from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS). Enrolled individuals receive intensive case management services to support self-sufficiency.

• Project Save is an intensive case management program that provides wrap-around services to community members between the ages of 18 and 30. CBI case managers and intervention workers collaborate as a team to provide employment counseling services, which include resume writing, job search, application assistance, employer contact, etc.

• Permanent Supportive Housing Developments. CBI, along with Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge and Services (WORKS), opened the first voter approved (Measure HHH) permanent supportive housing project, the taxpayer funded $1.2 billion bond earmarked for supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness.

The mixed-use project located at 88th and Vermont in South Los Angeles features 62 permanent supportive housing units for transitional-aged youth (18-25 years), veterans, and households with special needs experiencing chronic homelessness.  

CBI has future plans for development 90 additional units of permanent supportive housing units in South Los Angeles.

• Future Commercial Development Projects. Upcoming CBI projects include the opening of two additional offices along the Crenshaw Corridor.  One of the offices will serve as the hub of economic development and career training for CBI in partnership with the University of Southern California. The other location will serve as a center for community organizations to meet and will also serve as a training facility for local government and agency jobs which include Los Angeles City and County Fire Departments, LAPD, Metro and the U.S. Post Office.

“When it comes to getting things done and moving an agenda forward in the black community – business or otherwise – no one gets the job done like grassroots community-based organizations,” Sausedo said. “It was true 100 hundred years ago, and it is true today.”

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