LA CAN’s constituency consists of extremely low-income and homeless people, primarily those living in Downtown LA and South Central LA. LA CAN recruits organizational members and builds indigenous leadership within this constituency to promote human rights and address multiple forms of oppression faced by extremely low-income, predominately African-American and Latino, residents.
General membership in LA CAN is established by meeting two criteria: Being low-income and making a commitment to advancing LA CAN’s mission and campaigns. Members fall into three categories at any given time: general, active, and core. LA CAN, by design, is led and fueled by members and other community residents.
Core members comprise the majority of each decision-making body at LA CAN, and staff, interns and Board members are recruited from the core membership. Organizational decisions are made by Project Committees, Residential Organizing Committee (General Membership), Staff and Interns, and the Board of Directors.
Our Organizing Model
Community organizing is the process of building a collective “people power” that includes impacted residents defining problems, solutions, and methods to accomplish these solutions. In the process, people (members) will build a democratically-controlled community organization that can take on future issues/problems and embody the will and power of their community over time.
LA CAN’s organizing model directly addresses the core problem of exclusion of low-income residents in public decision-making by recruiting and training members to be involved – whether invited or not – in all levels of decision-making impacting our communities. Our organizing model also addresses the systemic reasons for the lack of investment and resources in our communities, root causes of homelessness, the lack of access to affordable housing, and the targeted and violent police enforcement in our communities.
LA CAN views the key components of community health as: long-term housing stability without fear of displacement; healthy conditions within and around homes and living spaces; access to park space, grocery stores and fresh foods, health and mental health care, and other health-promoting resources; freedom from fear of police and other institutions, and strong neighborhood social ties reflected by participation in community organizing and other clubs, activities and events.
Participation, engagement, volunteerism, and innovation are the fuels that make change achievable. Social, structural, and institutional change/transformation is not possible without the direct and sustained involvement of those directly impacted. LA CAN views participation as a duty of those interested in securing equity, justice, dignity and respect. Moreover, LA CAN understands that the process is conducted in numerous ways and is not restricted nor relegated to only those currently considered “citizens.”
Examples of civic participation utilized and encouraged by LA CAN’s organizing are voting, voter education and mobilization, and participation in advisory committees.