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.
Deputy Director, Development and Administration
Rachel joins Safe Place for Youth with over ten years of non profit experience. Prior to her role as Deputy 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 several 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.
Director of Programs
After earning her Bachelors in Social Work from San Francisco State University, Sophia, a native Angeleno, began her career by engaging in direct service with SED girls at the Maryvale Residential Treatment Center. She then moved to New York City to work with the Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive service provider for LGBTQ homeless youth, for over nine years in a variety of roles with the most recent being their Senior Director of Transitional Housing Programs. She now returns to Los Angeles to continue her work in non-profit management with an emphasis on program development while maintaining a social justice lens. She holds a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University and enjoys volunteering in her spare time.
Director of Housing Advocacy
Having held both clinical and administrative roles, Rachel understands the importance of carefully designing programs with the end user’s experience at the center, guiding the process whenever possible. Rachel has worked alongside young people since 2011 and has focused on the housing needs of transition age youth since 2015. Rachel studied Public Health and Psychology at UC Berkeley and earned her Master in Business Administration and Master in Social Work at the University of Southern California. Rachel holds that the key to a healthy society and a stable economic future is investment in today’s young people, requiring commitment to quality education, healthcare, and programs that promote wellbeing. Rachel uses this belief to guide her work and deeply values the ideas, skills, and dreams of the young people who access services at Safe Place for Youth. Everyday these young people demonstrate the boundless capacity of the human spirit and why it is crucial we never let this capacity go untapped.
Senior Case Manager
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.
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.
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 Case Manager at SPY, Ben works with the members to identify their goals and make the necessary steps in reaching them. His current focus is on housing and working with members who want to begin the journey out of homelessness. In addition, Ben is working with SPY's Outdoor Program to provide mindfulness and healing in natural outdoor environments. He ensures each member that we are here to help them pave their own road to success.
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. Responsible for front-desk operations during Drop-In, she has 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.
Healing Arts Coordinator
Inspired by a belief in the incredible and healing power of art, Sarah has spent her professional career melding together the creation of art and working in human services. Originally from the east coast, she has lived in the Venice area on and off since 2009. Sarah has worked in the arts creating and producing workshops, art shows, and arts programming for over 10 years. In addition, her experience working as a teacher, case manager, program manager, in administration, sitting on 2 non-profit boards and volunteering at many different homeless services organizations, including Gramercy Housing Group, PATH, Art Walk Inc. and Survivors’ Truths, have provided the experience and proof in the healing and community building power of arts programming on underserved communities. Bringing these passions together, Sarah creates and facilitates the programming for SPY's Healing Arts Program. Sarah has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Media Arts, with a minor in Art History from Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford in Connecticut and is a Certified Social Emotional Arts Facilitator through UCLA’s Arts and Healing Program.
Cody could not be more excited to be working at SPY. She began her non-profit career as an intern at Venice Family Clinic, assisting in the planning and execution of their core fundraising events. Most recently, she worked as the Event Coordinator for the Westside Coalition For Housing and Hunger Health, for their 21st Annual Lawn Bowl-A-Thon Fundraiser. Cody has always felt a strong passion for serving the most vulnerable members of our society, and she looks forward to bringing this passion to SPY in this Development Associate position. She holds a BA in Drama Studies from San Francisco State University and hopes to obtain her Masters in Public Administration in the very near future.
Outreach and Engagement Support Worker
Staff Clinical Supervisor
Sheila Siegel is a licensed clinical social worker and a clinical psychologist. After working 20 years as the school psychologist at Harvard Westlake, she retired and began volunteering with Free the Slaves going all over the world teaching NGO staff about trauma informed care. She began working at SPY in February of 2017. For her it is a return to her roots as she did street gang work in Boston while she was in graduate school, followed by work in a family social service agency and a school for pregnant teens. Sheila has lived in Venice for the past 7 years. She is delighted to be at SPY and no longer retired.
Education and Employment Program Manager
Mel holds an M.A in Applied Linguistics from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and revels in diversity, in all its many forms. She has worked on education and employment with transition-age youth from many different walks of life first in Detroit, Honolulu, and now Los Angeles. Throughout these experiences, she has been continually impressed by their enthusiasm, creativity, and desire for growth and change. Inspired by the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to learn and work in a way that is meaningful to them, Mel strives to facilitate opportunities for SPY members to develop their personal and professional development in the community of West LA.
Education and Employment Specialist
Melissa has been with SPY for nearly 5 years, first as a volunteer, then as an intern, and now officially on staff. She is a native of Los Angeles and doesn't plan on living anywhere else. She completed her undergraduate degree at California State University Dominguez Hills studying Criminal Justice and plans on furthering her education in mental health. Melissa has always enjoyed SPY's protective and welcoming environment as well as how SPY has provides a place for youth to decompress and encourages self care. She believes in always trying to make the best of situations and make people laugh - this often means herself. A few more fun facts about Melissa: she likes to find inventive ways to use coffee filters and fidget spinners, she has a subconscious fear of birthday cakes and balloons because she thinks they are filled with poisonous gas like in the old Batman TV show!
Youth CES Regional Coordinator
Ely’s background in administration and passion to deliver high quality and systematically efficient service of any kind has prepared him for his role at SPY. He is excited to work as part of the vibrant, resourceful, and capable team at SPY. Having extensive writing and administrative experience, including government liaising, project management, grant writing and reporting, quality assurance, and more, Ely applies his drive to run smooth and efficient operations in everything he does. His previous experience with the chronically homeless adult population in Los Angeles led him to a deeper curiosity about youth and their experiences; a curiosity he hopes to simultaneously satiate and further develop. Originally from the east coast, Ely holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the City University of New York, Hunter College.
Volunteer Coordinator- AmeriCorps VISTA Program
Fatine just recently graduated from the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, New York. She holds a BA in Political Science with a concentration in International Politics and a minor in French. She is extremely excited to be working at SPY as an AmeriCorps VISTA working as the Volunteer Coordinator! She has experience working as a Volunteer Management Intern at a Refugee Resettlement Service called Journey’s End in Buffalo. She has also interned in Paris, France working with a diverse group of homeless youth at a site called Les Grands Voisins which is part of a bigger organization called Aurore Association. After her year as an AmeriCorps VISTA she hopes to continue her education by getting her masters and then furthering her work at non-profit organizations.
Youth CES Matcher
Allie migrated south to Los Angeles from Massachusetts, where she attended University of Massachusetts Amherst for her Bachelor's degree in Social Thought and Political Economy as well as her Master's degree in Public Policy. Along with research experience in youth-centered psychology and international public health, she was driven to continue her work with the homeless community after interning at the Western Mass Network to End Homelessness. Allie believes SPY's devotion to youth empowerment and agency is essential to successfully providing support and upholding social justice. She is endlessly motivated by the dynamic, brilliant people who come through SPY's doors as both youth and staff.
Host Homes Coordinator
Michal began working with individuals experiencing homelessness in 2013 at a non-profit organization based in Chicago. There Michal served first as a case manager and then as a supervisor for two supportive housing programs. Working through a trauma-informed and harm reduction lens, Michal gained an intimate understanding of the resiliency of individuals experiencing homelessness. Through this work, Michal developed a passion for supporting the self-determined goals of individuals while simultaneously working to create a more equitable social system. As the Host Homes Pilot Program Coordinator, Michal hopes to provide SPY members with an opportunity to access safe and secure transitional housing as they work towards achieving their long-term educational and housing goals. Michal also hopes to empower volunteers participating in this program as Hosts to recognize their own ability to contribute to community-based solutions to achieving a more just society.
YCES Peer Navigatior
Erika is thrilled to join the Safe Place for Youth team as the Youth Coordinated Entry System Peer Navigator. Erika has been a member at SPY for a little over a year and has participated in education/employment, case management as well as the arts and healing programs. Erika has a passion for helping others. In her new role, Erika hopes to help homeless youth find housing and provide them with anything they need to make them feel safe again. Erika’s background as a formerly homeless youth and as an ongoing youth advocate nationally and locally makes her an excellent fit for this role. Erika loves volunteering and speaking to groups of people about the common issues faced by homeless youth. Erika is excited to learn more about what the position has in store and the great things that will come out of this experience.
Health and Wellness Case Manager
Born and raised in Inglewood, Ca; Chris holds an M.S in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling from Walden University where he plans to apply his knowledge in working with “at risk” youth. Chris has years of experience working with youth that are SED, SPMI and the homeless population. Chris plans on furthering his education in the field of mental health striving to become a licensed Clinical Psychologist. He loves interacting and engaging with the members at SPY and looks forward to assisting in the growth of the organization.
Drop-In Case Manager Intern
Ron’s passions for social justice lead him to SPY, through a VISTA service called the Episcopal Urban Intern Program. Ron earned a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Florida Agriculture & Mechanical University. As a former Mental Health Associate at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, Ron gained experience working with at- risk youth. He is excited to join an amazing, hardworking, compassionate team at SPY as a drop-in case manager intern. After his year of service, he plans to partner with SPY as an advocate for at-risk youth experiencing homelessness.