Why are we different?

We start with the conviction that all things are possible for homeless children. Therefore, we provide a holistic approach to solving challenges and address all aspects of life: educational, psychosocial, developmental, financial. We do this because we want to provide the level of care to children experiencing homelessness that we would give to our children.

Our Mission




Our primary mandate is to serve homeless children. In everything we do, our goal is to honor the dignity and potential of each child. We strive every day to deliver that level of care.



Project Hope Alliance grew out of a schoolteacher’s passion for assisting local homeless children with their education – with her car serving as the first classroom. This personal outreach program soon became an organized undertaking called Project HOPE, which stood for “Homeless Outreach Program in Education.”


Project HOPE grew to become a county-run school designed to help children without permanent homes transition into the mainstream educational system. The First Presbyterian Church of Orange served as a key partner of the program for 20+ years, providing the facilities and many other invaluable operational services to the school.


Now called Project Hope Alliance, the organization remains committed to providing homeless children and youth from kindergarten through age 24 with the tools and opportunities that they need to learn their way to a better tomorrow. In this work, we have spent the last 28 years developing a unique model of care, which includes effective education and housing stability program models that serve the needs of children experiencing homelessness in Orange County.

A 12-year-old girl sitting on a motel bed, surrounded by homework, siblings, and parents, all crammed into one small room.
A 9-year-old boy entering a classroom with his head down, ashamed about not knowing where he will sleep tonight.

These are the images of children in Orange County who struggle with homelessness — the county’s best-kept secret. Although we may not see these “motel kids” in the streets or desperately gripping cardboard signs, they exist in overwhelming abundance.

Under the area’s veil of affluence are the faces of almost 30,000 children who experience homelessness and 120,000 children who live in poverty. They say goodnight from motels, shelters, and couches. They are forced to focus on where they will sleep instead of what they will learn. Tragically, their educations and futures suffer.

Years ago, I was one of these faces. For decades, I silenced my past as an Orange County motel kid, but in the spring of 2013, I shared my story to spark hope and conversation about childhood homelessness.

As a technology entrepreneur, my father experienced unpredictable lapses in income. Although my mother worked as a preschool teacher, keeping a roof over our family of six proved taxing. While there were periods of financial stability, there were also times of despair.

During my junior high and high school years, my three brothers, our parents, and I often packed our lives into 214-square-foot motel rooms. Feelings of shame, lack of privacy, and an economically schizophrenic childhood created an environment where the basic elements of being a kid, like doing homework, were sometimes lost.

Childhood homelessness data from the U.S. Department of Education is shocking. According to the department, 1 in 30 children in the country experience homelessness. Here in Orange County, it’s 1 in 6. California has the largest population of homeless children in America, and Orange County has more homeless students than the average for the state and for neighboring Los Angeles and San Diego counties, according to the California Department of Education.

The effects of youth homelessness are devastating, ranging from chronic emotional stress and physical malnourishment to significant academic gaps and difficulty making friends. In comparison with their peers, children experiencing homelessness are nine times more likely to repeat a grade, four times more likely to drop out of school, and three times more likely to be placed in special education programs, according to the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness.

But there is hope.

At Project Hope Alliance, we start with the kids. Our goal is to make sure that every homeless child in Orange County succeeds academically.

Our impactful approach ends the cycle of generational homelessness by empowering our kids with a unique academic program that is lovingly tailored to their skills and strengths to help them achieve financial independence.

Since 2012, we have ended homelessness for more than 1,500 kids and parents by stabilizing families in their own homes and providing their children with an exceptional education.

Take my story as an example of the boundless power of faith, hope, and determination. Since graduating from the University of California, Irvine, and Whittier Law School, to becoming a partner at a large law firm before age 40, and then leaving the practice of law to proudly serve as Project Hope Alliance’s CEO, I now realize that my story is not about me. I just happen to be the one with a voice right now to communicate that a child’s future should never be determined by their parents’ economic circumstances.

Read the LA Times article about Jennifer’s story.

Team Kid

Our team comes from a variety of backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common: a passion for accomplishing PHA’s mission: to end the cycle of homelessness, one child at a time.

Our Team

Jennifer Friend, J.D.

Chief Executive Officer

Rachel Cardenas, PSY.D

Chief Program Officer

Shelby Feliciano-Sabala, MSW

Chief Partnership Officer

Annie Song

Director of Development

Lizbeth Loyola, M.A.

Program Manager

Chrissie Lee, M.S.W. PPSC

Internship Program Manager

Guadalupe Contreras

District Manager, Newport-Mesa

Victor Lugo

District Manager, Santa Ana

Jocelyn Balderrama

District Manager, Huntington Beach

Michelle Lanternier

Manager of Shelter Services

Fatiha Small

Case Manager

Kimberly Garrido

Case Manager

Kirya Valle

Case Manager

Jocelyn Montiel

Case Manager

Nidia Pravongviengkham M.A.

Case Manager

Celso Fuentes

Case Manager

Daniel Hongo

Case Manager

Michael Puente

Case Manager

Catherine Balderrama

Case Manager

Katherine Montiel

Case Manager

Mauricio Gonzalez

Case Manager

Natalie Garcia

Case Manager

Jennifer Matsuda

Manager of Program Impact

John Eumurian

Foundation Relations Manager

Annie Weir, J.D

Grants & Development Coordinator

Kathy Keife

Manager of Finance & Administration

Allen Burnett

Community Engagement & Social Media Coordinator

Erika Rios

Development Coordinator

Madelyn Runcie

AmeriCorps Fellow


LYNN HEMANS, Board Chair Vice President, Consumer Intelligence & Strategy
The Hershey Company​

WILLIE L. BANKS, JR., PH.D., Director Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs, University of California, Irvine

SEAN BOULTON, Director Principal, Newport Harbor High School

DAWN BOUNDS, Director Assistant Professor, Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing, UCI

PETE DEUTSCHMAN, Treasurer and Secretary President, The Buddy Group

JOSH FRIEND, Director CEO, Insellerate

JOE LEWIS, III, Vice Chair University of California, Irvine

 APRIL NEGRETE, Director HR Technology Consultant, USI Insurance Services

ERIC RANS, Director Partner, Michelman & Robinson LLP

RAY WESTON, Director Vice President & General Counsel, Taco Bell


This past year, you brought hope to more children than ever before.


See for yourself.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we’re independently audited each year. You can download our financial documents below.

Download the print-ready report.

Project Hope Alliance logo