After about 25 years of working in the nonprofit sector, Brandi Brown-Shock decided to begin her own organization to meet the needs of youth who are experiencing homelessness.
After time volunteering with the Operation Read program at LA County’s Eastlake Juvenile Hall and then overseeing a youth center, Brown-Shock began to see an influx of youth seeking services and a gap in resources available to them, she said.
“That’s how it started,” Brown-Shock said. “I was like, ‘I want to figure out how to help these youth.'”
Around 2019, Brown-Shock received nonprofit status for her organization, House of Haven, with the goal of creating a drop-in center for young adults and teens, mostly under the age of 24.
“2019 was just me building a board, I thought I’d have this up and running in six months,” Brown-Shock said. “But there’s a few steps in between.”
Brown-Shock found it challenging to receive any funding without having an established space for the nonprofit, but in the meantime, she continued to build and distribute care packages to youth experiencing homelessness, she said.
By the end of 2020, though, her nonprofit received a grant through the city of Long Beach, and Brown-Shock began the search for the perfect home for House of Haven.
“Every space I found was the perfect space,” Brown-Shock said.
For House of Haven, Brown-Shock wanted an open space with at least two rooms and a shower for youth to use, with the goal of creating a space as youth-oriented and friendly as possible, she said.
After juggling challenges with pricing and finding a space that met these needs, Brown-Shock drove by a space in North Long Beach that had been vacant for six months, that used to be a church.
“As soon as I walked in, I was like, ‘This is it,’” Brown-Shock said. ”This is where we’re going to begin our journey.”
Meant to serve as a safe haven for youth, House of Haven officially opened earlier this year, providing a space to rest, get a meal, shower and “just be young adults,” Brown-Shock said.
In its first three or four months, about 25 youth accessed the space, Brown-Shock said.
Everyone that enters House of Haven’s doors for the first time also completes a needs assessment, with the goal of linking them to adult education or other opportunities and benefits, Brown-Shock said.
“Most of them maybe haven’t graduated high school or didn’t have the proper tools to keep a job on top of being unhoused,” Brown-Shock said.
As for connecting to housing resources, navigating that has “been difficult,” Brown-Shock said.
“It’s also pushed me to think, ‘How can I be best of service in this realm?'” Brown-Shock said. “When we talk about affordable housing, what does that really look like for those making minimum wage and who want to stay in this beautiful city of Long Beach?”
Amid the challenges of navigating youth homelessness, House of Haven remains focused on breaking the cycle of homelessness early.
“If we do that, eventually, we won’t see our numbers rising,” she said.
Eventually, Brown-Shock hopes that House of Haven will be able to secure housing, whether it’s short-term, long-term or transitional, she said. She also hopes additional services specifically for young adults such as House of Haven’s model will be duplicated throughout the city, amid a gap in resources available specifically for youth, she said.
But in the meantime, Brown-Shock is focused on both the small and large victories: opening House of Haven’s doors, holding its first fundraiser and celebrating each person that’s been connected to a resource, she said.
“With all nonprofits, the challenge is always funding, and sometimes it’s just getting the word out . . . Letting people know that we are here, we are a service to the youth . . . but other than that, it’s been a blessing,” Brown-Shock said.
House of Haven is located at 5231 Atlantic Ave.