The Target store in Compton has all the familiar features of the retail chain: aisles of discount merchandise, a full-service pharmacy and a small army of sales clerks and cashiers in bright red shirts.
It also has something most Targets don't: Saundra Edwards, the store's social worker.
At least two days a week, the 64-year-old Edwards can be found walking the aisles, talking to store employees about problems large and small.
While making her rounds on a recent Monday morning, Edwards approaches Audra Menefee, a fitting room clerk who has turned to Edwards several times for help dealing with financial and family problems. Her husband was recently in a serious car accident, sending him to the hospital with a broken hip and leaving Menefee without a car. She now walks the two miles to work.
Edwards reminds her to fill out insurance paperwork, gives her some advice on getting a new car and provides encouragement.
Without Edwards, "I'd be sitting here crying because I wouldn't know what else, who else ," she said as the social worker handed her a tissue. "I'm glad she's here because, boy, she's been helping me a lot."
When Target opened its Compton store, the company expected a higher risk of crime and took steps to address it -- beefing up the store's security detail and working with the city to get a sheriff's substation on site.
But it didn't anticipate that its work force -- hired locally to provide the area with much-needed jobs -- would be prone to absenteeism and turnover.
So shortly after opening, Target contracted with Com-Psych to provide a workplace counselor, borrowing an idea first tried at a Chicago Target.
Target now has a social worker at 69 of its 1,752 locations. Those stores reported a 17 percent average improvement in attendance scores last year compared with 2008.