Western Center on Law and Poverty

Fighting to End Poverty in California

Los Angeles, CA   |
GuideStar Charity Check

Western Center on Law and Poverty

EIN: 95-2897721


Through the lens of economic and racial justice, Western Center on Law & Poverty fights in courts, cities, counties, and in the Capitol to secure housing, health care, and a strong safety net for Californians with low incomes. Many systems keep people in poverty – from institutionalized racism to unjust and unequal economic structures. We address those factors in every aspect of our work, and call out the ways they oppress people experiencing poverty.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Ms. Crystal D. Crawford

Main address

3701 Wilshire Blvd Ste 208

Los Angeles, CA 90010 USA

Show more contact info



Subject area info

Public interest law

Public affairs

Human rights

Population served info

Ethnic and racial groups

Economically disadvantaged people

Low-income people

NTEE code info

Public, Society Benefit - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C. (W99)

Public Interest Law/Litigation (I83)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (R01)

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Although California has one of the strongest economies in the country, this stands in stark contrast with the conditions in which millions of residents live as they struggle to pay for food, shelter, and other necessities, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Western Center serves the more than 7 million low-income Californians living at or below 125% of the federal poverty level, or $33,125 for a family of 4. By leveraging our existing model that focuses on litigation, legislation, and support for legal aid partners, we successfully fight for broad legal victories that impact California families living in poverty in the areas of housing, health, public benefits, and access to justice.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?


Western Center's health team ensures equitable access to affordable, comprehensive, quality health care for poor consumers.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

Western Center’s Housing Team advances and enforces the right of low-income (under 50% of area median) Californians to live in housing that is safe, decent, and affordable.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

Western Center advances and enforces the rights of poor Californians receiving federal and/or state funded public benefits, including cash assistance through General Assistance/General Relief, CalWORKs and the Food Stamp Program (CalFresh) and, to prevent dependency and on public benefit programs, increases access to jobs and justice for the poorest Californians.

Population(s) Served

Western Center works to expand access to justice by ensuring that Californians with low incomes are treated fairly when they engage with criminal or civil courts and that are not burdened with unjust fines and fees and/or predatory collections practices.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people
Economically disadvantaged people
Incarcerated people
Victims and oppressed people
Unemployed people

Where we work


Shattuck-Price Award 2012

Los Angeles County Bar Association

Advocate of the Year Award 2012

California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth

Wellstone – Wheeler National Anti-hunger Advocate of the Year Award 2012

National Food Research and Action Center

Kutak-Dodds 2015

National Legal Aid and Defender Association

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of community events or trainings held and attendance

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Economically disadvantaged people

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Western Center conducts trainings for our organizational partners in our program areas

Number of research or policy analysis products developed, e.g., reports, briefs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Economically disadvantaged people

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Western Center publishes resources for advocates on our program areas

Number of civil litigation matters handled

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Economically disadvantaged people

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Number of organizations accessing technical assistance offerings

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Western Center's attorneys and advocates provide help to local organizations and offers trainings, develops publications and provides one-to-one technical assistance sessions.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our team works tirelessly to make sure Californians are protected in California law by addressing the following:


We will ensure that residents have access to healthy, sustainable, and affordable housing in neighborhoods of their choosing, and we advocate for strong, clear, and enforceable anti-displacement protections. All of our work seeks to address California’s housing crisis and its disproportionate effects on the most vulnerable Californians and unhoused individuals by:

Focusing on tenant protections so families stay housed during and after the pandemic, and that
they are not burdened with debt accrued through no fault of their own.

Enforcing fair housing to protect vulnerable communities from harassment and discrimination in housing.

Prioritizing land use and environmental justice and ensuring that California focuses on equitable development in healthy communities free from pollution and other environmental dangers.

Helping to prevent and end homelessness through cross-team and cross-issue initiatives such as increasing housing opportunities and funding for unhoused communities, including formerly incarcerated, veterans, LGBTQ people, and elderly individuals.


At Western Center, we believe access to health care is a human right. We work with our community partners and government agencies to provide equitable access to health care for all Californians, especially during this unprecedented health crisis. This includes ensuring no one is removed from coverage, and for those who are, coverage is immediately restored. Our priorities include:

Expanding Medi-Cal to cover all Californians who need it and ensuring that Medi-Cal plans and providers deliver equitable, quality care.

Advocating for improvements to health programs that serve Californians with low incomes, particularly addressing health disparities for Black and Latinx communities.

Enforcing health consumer rights and protections.


We will provide a roadmap to financial security for the people who need it most, and fight for all California families to have sufficient income to afford basic necessities. This includes:

Increasing enrollment and retention, and where applicable, benefit levels across all safety net programs that serve low-income Californians such as California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), CalFresh, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Securing or expanding CalFresh emergency food programs and pandemic food programs to relieve the continued and historic levels of hunger due to COVID-19.

Expanding programs like the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) to allow low-income families to keep the money they earn.

Fighting to end the high costs of poverty by reducing or eliminating high fees, fines, and costs associated with the criminal justice system, traffic courts, parking tickets, and towing of cars.

By applying a coordinated concert of tools including legislative and policy advocacy, high impact litigation, administrative advocacy, and technical assistance and education for legal service and community-based organizations to each of our priority areas, Western Center ensures that low-income Californians receive the support they are entitled to, and fights for them to keep the precious assets they do have. Our tools include:
Administrative Advocacy: Western Center works with county, city, and state administrators to ensure policies and procedures are implemented properly across California to protect and uplift Californians living in poverty. Sometimes a simple shift in procedure, or guidance and encouragement from our advocates, can make a difference in real life outcomes for hundreds of thousands of Californians.

Budget Advocacy: While budget advocacy often proceeds quietly, its impact on individuals and families can be far reaching and life changing. Western Center’s advocacy pushes the state to use its budget to bring California closer to true economic and racial equity.

Impact Litigation: Western Center files litigation across California to ensure the laws to protect and support Californians with low incomes — laws we often sponsor in Sacramento — are upheld by government and private entities. Good laws mean nothing without enforcement.

Policy Advocacy: Western Center’s state policy work centers on advancing legislation that gets to the heart of the issues causing California’s massive income inequality, unsustainable housing market, lack of access to health care, and destructive systems of justice.

Technical Assistance: Western Center attorneys and advocates assist hundreds of legal services and community-based advocates throughout the state and nation. Community-based advocates and legal aid attorneys are often the only line of defense for people with low incomes when they are forced to navigate complex legal issues. In that way, Western Center’s support of and collaboration with local advocates and legal aid attorneys ripples across communities we all serve.

Western Center was formed by a passionate group of attorneys and legal scholars who sought to create a unique organization, driven by the belief that all Californians deserve the finest possible legal representation before the institutions that shape their lives.

Western Center was founded in 1967 and is a 501(c)(3) organization with offices in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Oakland. Our operating budget for 2023 is $6.5M and our diverse revenue model includes grants and contracts, individual and corporate contributions, event revenue, attorneys' fees and cy pres awards to ensure access to services and entitlements for more than eight million Californians living in poverty each year. Our supporters include regional and national funders, such as the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Stupski Foundation, California Health Care Foundation, Blue Shield of California FoundationThe California Wellness Foundation, and The California Endowment. Western Center also values building on its current endowment as a means to provide financial sustainability for the organization.

Our 31 staff members, community and legal services partners and pro bono attorneys serve all 58 counties in the state, focusing on low-income Californians living at or below 125% of the federal poverty level. Western Center's issue teams of health care, housing and public benefits include 14 attorneys and advocates with leadership and advice provided by our executive director, an active member of the California bar, director of litigation, special counsel and general counsel. Our 40-member Board is drawn from industries including law, finance, health care academia and the nonprofit sector.

In 2023:

Western Center fought and secured six landmark settlements, including a 21-year old case, Katie A. v. Bonta to improve the services available to children and young adults with mental health needs who are in foster care or who are at imminent risk of placement in foster care in Los Angeles County; Black Parallel School Board v. Sacramento City Unified School District to advance racial justice for Black students with disabilities;ACCE Action v. California Housing and Community Development to keep Californians safely housed with emergency rental assistance;Freeman v. Riverside County to return the collection of unjust fines and fees that stripped families of their precious assets; Santa Clara Valley Health Care to ensure charity care policies are enforced so Californians with low incomes don't carry the crushing burden of medical debt; and Grupo Comunitario v. Harmony Communities preserving affordable housing for mobile home tenants and residents.

At the federal level, we filed Erdmann v. Vilsack to ensure more than 40 million Americans did not lose their SNAP food benefits in the face of a government shutdown. This groundbreaking lawsuit resulted in the USDA changing their accounting practice to ensure that benefits will go out every October, regardless of a shutdown.

Additionally, Western Center passed four bills in the 2023 legislative session enhancing tenant protections (SB567 and AB1418), improving access to health care (SB595), and alleviating unjust debt for victims of trafficking (SB727).

Our legal resource center provided 1,376 hours of training and technical assistance to 100+ legal aid services and advocacy organizations to strengthen our sector's work in housing, health care, public benefits and access to justice.

Revenue vs. expenses:  breakdown

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.

Liquidity in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 3.25 over 10 years

Months of cash in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 2.8 over 10 years

Fringe rate in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 20% over 10 years

Funding sources info

Source: IRS Form 990

Assets & liabilities info

Source: IRS Form 990

Financial data

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Western Center on Law and Poverty

Revenue & expenses

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data

Western Center on Law and Poverty

Balance sheet

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

The balance sheet gives a snapshot of the financial health of an organization at a particular point in time. An organization's total assets should generally exceed its total liabilities, or it cannot survive long, but the types of assets and liabilities must also be considered. For instance, an organization's current assets (cash, receivables, securities, etc.) should be sufficient to cover its current liabilities (payables, deferred revenue, current year loan, and note payments). Otherwise, the organization may face solvency problems. On the other hand, an organization whose cash and equivalents greatly exceed its current liabilities might not be putting its money to best use.

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data

Western Center on Law and Poverty

Financial trends analysis Glossary & formula definitions

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

This snapshot of Western Center on Law and Poverty’s financial trends applies Nonprofit Finance Fund® analysis to data hosted by GuideStar. While it highlights the data that matter most, remember that context is key – numbers only tell part of any story.

Created in partnership with

Business model indicators

Profitability info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) before depreciation $298,795 -$397,870 -$8,667 $178,833 -$224,647
As % of expenses 7.5% -9.2% -0.2% 3.6% -4.5%
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) after depreciation $298,795 -$397,870 -$8,667 $178,833 -$224,647
As % of expenses 7.5% -9.2% -0.2% 3.6% -4.5%
Revenue composition info
Total revenue (unrestricted & restricted) $4,449,495 $4,471,606 $4,422,254 $5,838,439 $5,424,714
Total revenue, % change over prior year 8.0% 0.5% -1.1% 32.0% -7.1%
Program services revenue 17.9% 20.0% 14.9% 13.9% 8.4%
Membership dues 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Investment income 0.3% 0.4% 0.2% 0.2% 0.3%
Government grants 16.4% 19.4% 10.8% 34.4% 11.7%
All other grants and contributions 65.1% 59.4% 74.0% 50.6% 79.5%
Other revenue 0.2% 0.8% 0.1% 0.9% 0.1%
Expense composition info
Total expenses before depreciation $3,989,303 $4,324,532 $4,448,470 $4,912,512 $4,969,909
Total expenses, % change over prior year -0.4% 8.4% 2.9% 10.4% 1.2%
Personnel 77.2% 77.3% 77.8% 77.4% 73.1%
Professional fees 1.2% 3.5% 5.3% 2.1% 3.7%
Occupancy 8.1% 8.0% 7.8% 7.1% 7.3%
Interest 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Pass-through 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 4.6% 4.5%
All other expenses 13.5% 11.1% 9.1% 8.8% 11.3%
Full cost components (estimated) info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Total expenses (after depreciation) $3,989,303 $4,324,532 $4,448,470 $4,912,512 $4,969,909
One month of savings $332,442 $360,378 $370,706 $409,376 $414,159
Debt principal payment $0 $0 $0 $668,750 $0
Fixed asset additions $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Total full costs (estimated) $4,321,745 $4,684,910 $4,819,176 $5,990,638 $5,384,068

Capital structure indicators

Liquidity info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Months of cash 2.8 4.5 3.5 2.5 3.8
Months of cash and investments 3.8 5.5 4.6 3.5 4.7
Months of estimated liquid unrestricted net assets 2.6 1.3 1.2 1.5 1.0
Balance sheet composition info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Cash $934,720 $1,631,989 $1,287,123 $1,014,860 $1,563,421
Investments $326,252 $367,069 $403,368 $427,217 $377,671
Receivables $1,486,635 $1,631,150 $1,744,446 $2,305,548 $2,154,792
Gross land, buildings, equipment (LBE) $259,640 $259,640 $259,640 $259,640 $259,640
Accumulated depreciation (as a % of LBE) 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Liabilities (as a % of assets) 15.4% 31.1% 27.6% 9.5% 25.0%
Unrestricted net assets $856,407 $458,537 $449,870 $628,703 $404,056
Temporarily restricted net assets $1,546,741 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Permanently restricted net assets $0 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Total restricted net assets $1,546,741 $2,121,315 $2,130,952 $2,883,935 $3,501,937
Total net assets $2,403,148 $2,579,852 $2,580,822 $3,512,638 $3,905,993

Key data checks

Key data checks info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Material data errors No No No No No


The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Form 1023/1024 is not available for this organization

Executive Director

Ms. Crystal D. Crawford

A seasoned leader with more than 20 years of senior management experience in the legal, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, Crawford has played a pivotal role in advancing the health and economic security of low-income Californians, women of color and communities of color. Before she was Western Center’s Executive Director, Crawford was a program director at The California Wellness Foundation, where she developed and led the organization’s groundbreaking Women’s Initiatives, a multi-million dollar program that amplifies the voices of women of color and provides philanthropy and policymakers with a vision for how to advance the health and economic security of women of color. Crawford earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Dartmouth College and law degree from the New York University School of Law, where she was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow and Chairperson of the Black Allied Law Student Association.

Number of employees

Source: IRS Form 990

Western Center on Law and Poverty

Officers, directors, trustees, and key employees

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Show data for fiscal year
Compensation data
Download up to 5 most recent years of officer and director compensation data for this organization

Western Center on Law and Poverty

Highest paid employees

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Show data for fiscal year
Compensation data
Download up to 5 most recent years of highest paid employee data for this organization

Western Center on Law and Poverty

Board of directors
as of 01/25/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board of directors data
Download the most recent year of board of directors data for this organization
Board co-chair

Ms. Lois D. Thompson

Proskauer Rose LLP

Term: 2019 - 2023

Board co-chair

Mr. David Elson

Law Offices of David Elson

Term: 2014 - 2023

Alex Beroukhim

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP

Shane Brun

King & Spalding LLP

Corinna Cherian

City National Bank

Grant A Davis-Denny

Munger Tolles & Olson LLP

Daralyn Durie

Durie Tangri

Kirk Dillman

McKool Smith Hennigan, P.C

David Elson

Law Offices of David Elson

David E Fink

Venable LLP

Christine Goodman

Pepperdine School of Law

Jonathan Gottlieb

Fox Legal Group

Joshua Hamilton

Latham & Watkins LLP

Michael Hostettler


Olivia Kim

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati P.C

Susan Leader

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Thomas Loran

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

Jessica L Lunney


Adam Paris

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Alison L Plessman

Hueston Hennigan LLP

Sylvia Rivera

American Honda Motors Co.

Rey M Rodriguez

The Walt Disney Company

Mike Shipley

Kirkland & Ellis LLP

Steven G Sklaver

Susman Godfrey LLP

Patrick J Somers

Kendall Brill & Kelly LLP

Howard J Steinberg

Greenberg Traurig LLP

Lois M Takahashi

USC Price School of Public Policy

Lois D Thompson

Proskauer Rose LLP

Dale Walls

Elizabeth Butler Steyer

Felicia Davis

Paul Hastings LLP

Leif King

Baker & McKenzie LLP

Shira Liu

Crowell & Moring LLP

Patrick J. Somers

Kendall Brill Kelly LLP

Erin Brady

Hogan Lovells LLP

Duane Campbell

FTI Consulting

Brian Cardoza

Southern California Edison

Julia Cherlow

Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, P.C.

Maisie Chen

Megan Ebor

San Diego State University

Diana Feinstein

Gibson Dunn Crutcher LLP

Marisol Franco

Jocelyn Freeman Garrick

John S Gibson


Jaelyn Edwards Judelson

Akin Gump

Madhu Pocha

O’Melveny & Myers LLP

Connie Chan Robinson

Diane Baquet Smith

Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

Abraham Tabaie

Skadden Arps

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 2/6/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Black/African American
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

No data


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 02/02/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.


Fiscal year ending
There are no fundraisers recorded for this organization.