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Alison Hurst

Executive Director & Founder

After moving to California from London in 2001, Alison witnessed the homeless youth epidemic in Los Angeles and decided to get involved with addressing the issue. A resident of the Westside, she began by making care packages at home with her family and handing them out with other volunteers on the Venice Boardwalk.  In 2011, she worked with a dedicated group of community members to open a Drop-In Center in Venice, and from there, Safe Place for Youth (SPY) was founded. Five years later, under Alison's leadership as Executive Director, SPY volunteers have been joined by a team of 14 dedicated staff, and the organization is regarded as the lead agency for homeless and at-risk youth in West Los Angeles. Besides sitting on the board of The Westside Coalition and a chair of The Los Angeles Coalition to End Youth Homelessness, Alison still finds time to just sit and talk with our homeless young people and let them know that they are valued. 

Contact: alison@safeplaceforyouth.org

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Rachel Stich

Development Director

Rachel joins Safe Place for Youth with over ten years of non profit experience. Prior to her role as Development Director at SPY, she spent three years as Events & Communications Director at Los Angeles Waterkeeper, and worked at United Way of Greater Los Angeles before that. Born and raised in Los Angeles, and a resident of Venice for the past nine years, Rachel feels passionate about homeless and human rights issues. She recently spent time volunteering with local organization Chrysalis, participating in their Women's Empowerment Program, and has volunteered with other homeless organizations throughout Los Angeles for the past 10 years. Rachel holds a BA in Communications, with an emphasis in Public Relations, and a minor in Sociology from San Diego State University. She is also a member of the Venice Chamber of Commerce.

Contact: rachels@safeplaceforyouth.org

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Bari Goldojarb

Director of Programs

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Bari's passion for social work is driven by her desire to affect systemic change, both in policy and in the effective and efficient running of the organizations that serve those populations in need in her community. She has a diverse background working with underserved populations, including adults with special needs, victims of domestic violence, and homeless women and children.  Over her career, she has worked to develop and implement programs with the L.A. Mayor's Office, LAPD, Regional Center, and independent social service organizations.  In addition to her direct service experience, Bari was a Program Manager  with Taproot Foundation, working with nonprofit leadership and professional volunteers to complete pro bono projects. This gave her a keen insight into high level nonprofit needs and the means to satisfy those needs. Seeing the challenges faced by social service organizations with their limited resources, Bari pursued her MSW with a focus on community organization, planning, and administration.  Bari has a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Psychology and Religious Studies and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Southern California.

Contact: barig@safeplaceforyouth.org

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Rachel Pedowitz

Youth CES Regional Coordinator

From her experiences in nonprofit administration, healthcare, and foster youth services, Rachel has come to believe that the key to a healthy society and a stable economic future is the empowerment of today’s young people, requiring community- wide dedication to education, prevention, and programs that promote emotional wellbeing. Having held both clinical and administrative roles, Rachel understands the importance of carefully designing programs with the end user’s experience at the center, which she is excited to apply to the rollout of the Youth Coordinated Entry System for SPY and its regional partners. Since moving to Los Angeles, Rachel has worked with Chrysalis, St. Anne’s, Public Counsel, Green Dot Public Schools, and the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic and feels incredibly grateful to have learned from the rich wisdom held at those agencies. Rachel holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Health and Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master in Business Administration, Master in Social Work from the University of Southern California.

Contact: rpedowitz@safeplaceforyouth.org 

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Jeanine Espejo-Watkins

Senior Case Manager


Born and raised in Los Angeles, Jeanine began working with youth after graduating with her Bachelors in Psychology from California State University, Los Angeles in 2009. She worked with youth and young adults with eating disorders and youth with substance abuse issues in residential treatment programs. In 2010, she moved up north to Santa Cruz County and began working with a local non profit. There she spent a total of 6 years with them.The first 3 years she worked with adults who had severe mental health issues by supporting them out in the community and assisting them in managing their social security benefits. Missing working with youth, she changed departments to work with current and former system involved youth at a drop in center and in a transitional housing program. In 2013 she decided to pursue her Masters in Social Work at California State University, Monterey Bay. While in school, she continued working in the transitional housing program while also interning as a medical social work intern at Hospice of Santa Cruz County and at Dominican Hospital. After graduating with her Masters in Social Work in May 2016, Jeanine decided to move back to her native Los Angeles to use the skills she acquired in Santa Cruz and give back to her community. 
Contact: jeaninee@safeplaceforyouth.org
 

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Jaemmie Canas

Education & Employment Specialist

Jaemmie is a former foster youth and was a part of the DCFS system until the age of 19. Having experienced homelessness 3 times in their life and having lived through the challenges of aging out, Jaemmie decided to explore solutions to homelessness within the foster youth and LGBTQ community . In 2015, Jaemmie participated in UCLA’s Center for American Politics and Public Policy Program in Washington, DC, where they were awarded a Matsui Congressional Fellowship, interned in the U.S. House of Representatives and completed research about foster youth and homelessness. Jaemmie is a Guardian Scholar and a former Youth Coach at UCLA’s First Star Academy where they focus on empowering foster youth through education. Jaemmie continues to work on future projects such as a housing project with a holistic approach for homeless individuals and exploring topics such as the reconceptualization of the journey of suffering. Jaemmie is thrilled to be a part of the SPY team. Jaemmie holds a B.A. in Anthropology with an emphasis in Psychological Anthropology and a minor in Disability Studies from UCLA.

Contact: jaemmiec@safeplaceforyouth.org

 

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Rob Hanna

Outreach and Engagement Case Manager

Rob has worked with at-risk youth for over 15 years. Making an impact in young people’s lives, helping them turn negative situations into positives, and realizing their self-worth has been his primary motivation in working with youth.  His career with at-risk youth started with Seneca Center in San Leandro, CA, where he gained experience in crisis intervention working with emotionally disturbed children. From there he went on to work with the Community Counseling and Education Center – including affiliations with California Youth Authority – working with youth involved in gang activity. He found his passion in addressing gang violence, gun violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. From there he developed a curriculum to teach administrators and youth on dealing with issues associated with gang violence and at-risk behavior. Rob’s work has included providing group counseling and training with Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy, Youth Build Charter School, the San Bernardino County Probation Department, and the Foster and Kinship Care Education (FKCE) program at Citrus College. He enjoys his work at SPY working with homeless youth, and also teaches part-time at the FKCE programs of Los Angeles City College and West Los Angeles Community College.  Rob received training and certification in mediation, counseling, and training through the Omega Institute in San Francisco, Cal State San Bernardino, and University of Southern California.

Contact: robh@safeplaceforyouth.org

 

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Amanda Orzoco

Outreach and Engagement Case Manager

Amanda has experience working with children who have developmental disorders, such as Autism. Although she loved working with children, she wanted to gain more experience working with youth. She interned at a short-term crisis intervention program for adolescents and worked in a group home for pregnant youth. She started interning at SPY in early December 2014 and now works as a Outreach and Engagement Case Manager. Amanda graduated with a degree in Psychology & Social Behaviors and in Criminology, Law & Society from the University of California, Irvine in 2014.

Contact: amandao@safeplaceforyouth.org

 

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Rebecca McGuire

Pregnant & Parenting Case Manager

Rebecca McGuire, LCSW, has volunteered for many years with at risk youth in different capacities.  She has volunteered with physically and mentally disabled youth in summer camp; she has volunteered for Special Olympics and Make a Wish Foundation.   Rebecca has volunteered in schools helping youth and families connect, where connection was lacking. Rebecca decided to pursue a Master's Degree in Clinical Social Work, allowing her the freedom to work more in depth with at risk youth.  Rebecca has a passion for working with young women who are pregnant, desiring to support them through the pregnancy and prepare them to bring their child into a healthy and loving environment.  She also cares deeply about preparing fathers- to- be for their new life experience of being an involved nurturing parent.  Rebecca has facilitated parenting groups for over 3 years and is passionate about providing information about the significance of secure attachment in the first 5 years of life, and how that attachment influences a child's entire life. 

Contact: rebeccam@safeplaceforyouth.org

 

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Ben Perkins

Case Manager

 Ben’s excited to be working with SPY and contribute to the community he grew up in. He graduated from the University of Colorado where he studied Anthropology and Ethnic Studies. To better serve the youth population, Ben strives to understand the different factors and obstacles that affect individuals and their communities.  As the Intake Coordinator at SPY, he introduces new clients to the wide range of services and support SPY offers and connects them to the appropriate programs and staff members who can help them meet their needs and goals.  Ben ensures each client knows that we are here to help them pave their own road to success.

Contact: benp@safeplaceforyouth.org

 

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Michelle DiBattiste

Operations & Volunteer Manager

Michelle is extremely excited to have joined the SPY team after graduating from Occidental College, where she studied Critical Theory and Social Justice.  Harboring a passion to make sustainable impact for individuals while affecting a larger system of inequality, she believes SPY’s mission to provide a trauma-informed caring connection to homeless youth is vital to making Los Angeles a home to all those living in it.  As Operations and Volunteer Manager she works with the community by on boarding volunteers, coordinating partnership schedules and facilitating the programmatic staff.  Responsible for front-desk operations during Drop-In, she also has had the joy of meeting every youth SPY serves and getting to know their  unique expression of generosity, sincerity and resiliency. The positive energy and thoughtfulness that circulates between staff, youth, and volunteers at SPY keeps her motivated and excited to come to work.

Contact: michelled@safeplaceforyouth.org

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Micah Linton

Arts and Healing Facilitator

After a decade as an artist and designer in the video game industry, Micah obtained a Master’s degree in Transpersonal Psychology from Sofia University, is currently working towards his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and has academic articles published on the transformative potential of the creative process. Marrying his gifts in the artistic world with an education in psychology and transpersonal work, Micah is committed to utilizing creative expression for experiential growth among diverse populations. As the Arts and Healing Facilitator for Safe Place for Youth, through UCLA’s Creative Minds project, he is committed to building positive relationships with the youth.

Contact: micahl@safeplaceforyouth.org