Mission & Vision
A home and family for those without, Jovenes helps youth, ages 18-25, end their cycle of homelessness. Located in Boyle Heights and serving communities throughout Southeast LA County, Jovenes works deeply with our youth focusing on not only their needs for housing, but also healthcare, education, employment and trauma recovery. We empower those we serve because we believe that homelessness does not define our youth. Our mission is to help homeless youth become active and integrated members of our community. Together we work to develop pathways for personal and professional growth so young people can move into permanent housing and make meaningful contributions to the community we share.
We Create Solutions To End Youth Homelessness
In the late 80’s, unaccompanied youth from Central America began fleeing the violence and despair in their home countries and traveled to Los Angeles in search of a better life. Without any connections, many found themselves on the doorstep of La Placita Church at Olvera Street in Downtown LA. Fr. Richard Estrada, a priest at the church and a leader in the Chicano Rights Movement with Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, saw that these kids had nowhere to go. “We have to do something about this,” he said, and so he and founded Jovenes, Inc. by opening his home in East LA to provide shelter and food to these youth. With the help of a few compassionate friends, Fr. Estrada founded Jovenes, Inc. in 1990 to provide sanctuary and hope to homeless youth.
Over 30 years later, Jovenes offers a complete continuum of care that moves homeless youth off the streets and into their own apartments. We strive to fulfill Fr. Estrada’s vision of an organization that welcomes youth regardless of their experience and gives them a pathway to a brighter future.
“Their staff always had a smile on their face and were always willing to provide resources to me and my friends.”
Message from the Executive Director
I could never have imagined that my Jovenes journey would be so enriching, both personally and professionally, when I began working directly with youth and on program & organizational development in 2004. Working as a youth advocate in early years at Jovenes gave me the opportunity to understand their point of view, their hopes and dreams, but also the challenges and barriers they face and how the system contributes to their homelessness. This knowledge and continual learning continues to drive me and shapes our commitment to support homeless youth in their personal journey. I’m lucky and grateful to work with a team of compassionate people who are dedicating years of their lives to our organization and youth.
I became Executive Director in 2010 with a core goal of expanding Jovenes beyond shelter because our youth need more than just a place to stay. We’ve grown by developing a robust continuum of care that provides youth with stable housing that fits their needs plus empowering relationships that help them blossom. Our model uses housing as a tool that allows youth to see a greater vision for themselves. By offering multiple housing options, and not placing too many youth in one facility, we are able to develop relationships that give each of our youth the personalized attention they need. Our youth are asked to make up for lost time in a relatively short period of time, we have to obligation to ensure they can do so in a safe, decent and affordable housing, with supportive services that are tailored for their level of need. We believe each youth we serve has what it takes to find their place in today’s world. If we can give them a positive and nurturing environment, their potential will ultimately emerge. This belief drives us to carry out our mission to help our youth leave homelessness behind for good.
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Our model uses housing as a tool that allows youth to see a greater vision for themselves. By offering multiple housing options, and not placing too many youth in one facility, we are able to develop relationships that give each of our youth the personalized attention they need. Our youth are asked to make up for lost time in a relatively short period of time, we have to obligation to ensure they can do so in a safe, decent and affordable housing, with supportive services that are tailored for their level of need.
We believe each youth we serve has what it takes to find their place in today’s world. If we can give them a positive and nurturing environment, their potential will ultimately emerge. This belief drives us to carry out our mission to help our youth leave homelessness behind for good.
Our Team — Key Leadership
Eric Hubbard, Director of Development & Strategic Partnerships
This is a special place filled with special people. I’m proud of how we’ve constantly grown to meet the needs of our youth and how we work together to change lives.
Guadalupe Rebolledo, Short Term Housing Director
I feel called to do this work — it is my mission. I have a passion to support our youth and be someone in their lives that they can trust.
Gaby Mencos-Puche, College Success Initiative Director
I have never had a more gratifying experience than working with such resilient individuals. I’m excited about every day at Jovenes because I get to make someone else’s life and our community better.
Sendy Gonzalez, Permanent Housing Director
I love of working with our youth. It’s so satisfying to see them move into permanent housing and overcome their challenges.
Board of Directors
Father Richard Estrada, President of the Board
Dr. Yolanda Aguerrebere, Vice Chair
Eliseo Tenorio, Secretary/Treasurer
- Tina Birungi
- Deana Ng
- Lauren Coker
Jovenes in the News
The Guardian— April, 2022
My Car is My Home
In a state marked by inequality and staggering housing prices, nearly 20% of community college students report experiencing homelessness.
KCRW — March, 2018
What’s It Like To Be A Homeless Student
While most college freshman were busy figuring out where the library is, and how to get along with their roommate, 23 year-old Jaci Cortez had much bigger concerns.
Boyle Heights Beat — February, 2018
Homeless College Students Must Bridge Two Worlds
Whether sleeping on a couch or under a desk, Jaci Cortez, as a college freshman, would wake up early before any other students arrived on the East Los Angeles Community College campus and shower in the women’s gym.
KCRW — July, 2017
There are 6,000 Homeless Youth in L.A., Reaching Them is Crucial
Maggie Reyes was hanging out with a group of homeless people at a makeshift encampment in front of Tommy’s Burgers on Hollywood Boulevard. The spot, near the 101 off-ramp, is a good place to panhandle.
La Opinión — June, 2017
Una Mano Amiga: Hay Más Jóvenes Indigentes Pero Hay Ayuda Para Dejar La Indigencia
Cuando Edgar Archilla llegó de su natal Guatemala en busca de su madre en el 2010 jamás se imaginó que se convertiría en un indigente más de la gran Cosmopolitan de Los Ángeles.
L.A. Times — January, 2016
L.A. is Working Hard To Count a Hidden Population — Homeless Young People
When Marlon Sibrian turned 18 and aged out of the Los Angeles County foster care system, he had nowhere to go. His social worker dropped him off at the door of a Boyle Heights youth shelter.
Zócalo Public Square — September, 2015
My Improbably Descent Into Homelessness
The homelessness issue in America can feel like an overwhelming and abstract problem. As such, it’s understandable that politicians talk about it in broad terms and propose broad policies that treat all types of homelessness as the same.
L.A. Times — January, 2015
Activist L.A. Priest Follows Religion of Acceptance
Armed with a bottle of water and a baseball cap, Father Richard Estrada made his way slowly to the border in the scorching heat. After a half-hour of hiking up a steep dirt trail, he reached the massive steel fence and bowed his head to pray for the immigrants who dreamed of passing it.