Leading a tour last week of the new facilities of Bondage Busters, Pastor Charles Hudson said the day's grand opening was nothing short of a miracle.
"We had no money to do this, but here we are," said Hudson, walking through hallways filled with art and the smell of fresh paint. "Everybody said there was no way we could get this far. Well, I'm more than happy to stand here and be able to prove them wrong."
The newly renovated facilities, the former site of a secretarial college at 4433 Crenshaw Blvd., house services that are outgrowths of Bondage Busters, a center that Hudson founded six years ago to provide food, shelter and job skills assessment to the homeless.
Bondage Busters, which until last spring operated out of the Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce office, has expanded with Hudson's vision and now includes a medical clinic, a youth center, computer and electronics training centers and a gang intervention and redirection program.
More significant than the nonprofit organization's rapid growth, perhaps, is the fact that it did so with very little money. All of the renovation work was donated, and most of Bondage Busters' 50 full- and part-time staffers are volunteers.
"I was pitching in, and kind of got drafted full time," said Rick Berry, a Bondage Busters instructor who heads an entrepreneurial development program and also represents local artists. "But once I saw the kind of things that were going on here, I was happy to be a part of it. They want to offer real, workable solutions, not just set up a program."
The two-story complex offers training in telemarketing, computers, and phone and electronics repair. A youth center offers arts training and tutorial services, a recording studio is under construction, and a medical clinic provides basic and preventive health care. Operation RUG (Rooting Up Gangs), a gang intervention program launched in the summer, channels participants into the job training courses offered by Bondage Busters. And renovations will begin in November on six apartments attached to the complex, which will be used for transitional housing.
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas called efforts by Hudson and his colleagues exemplary of the kind of cooperative, comprehensive work needed to revitalize urban communities like Crenshaw. "We need every single institution in the area to lend their energies to social problems," he said. "There's a tremendous need for organizations like Bondage Busters. Pastor Hudson is a real soldier in the war."
It is a very real war to 46-year-old Hudson. Last month, his 23-year-old son was killed in the cross-fire of a shootout in Hudson's native Ohio.
"I want people to know that it's not all hopeless out here, in spite of all the bad happening," said Hudson. "It's just a matter of teaching folks how to fish and help themselves."
Hudson got a major boost when Robert Wilson, owner of the property, signed over the 22-room strip center to Bondage Busters in March. Wilson let Hudson assume ownership with the agreement that Hudson would begin payments on the $1.4-million property in November. Hudson said he is working to amass private and government grants "so (we) can stop living from one bill payment to the next."
Al Cooper, an Operation RUG counselor and former gang member, said that Bondage Busters is moving ahead with the right focus: "The job training is key. Economically is where it all starts."