Nonprofit Sector

Their Strength is their Humanity

February 29, 2024

Where We Go From Here

Janet Kelly, Executive Director & Founder, Sanctuary of Hope (SOH)

Los Angeles is a large, vibrant city that has just about everything. However, Los Angeles also has the highest concentration of people experiencing homelessness and foster care youth and young adults in the United States. Born in South Los Angeles in 2010, Sanctuary of Hope (SOH) has been combatting homelessness by working to eliminate poverty, dismantle racial and social injustices, and promote the value of education and stabilization for its community. “If we understand how young people are integrally a part of our community and we create space for them to participate, to integrate, to contribute, we make a better society for everyone,” says Janet Kelly, Executive Director and Founder of SOH. Their programs offer wraparound services that include housing, counseling and therapy, employment support, crisis services, financial assistance, and more. To date SOH has served over 7,000 youth and young adults. 

In this conversation, Janet shares her experience addressing the needs of her community, the importance of having a plan for equity and justice in service, and offers leadership lessons for connecting with youth. Joining her is Brittany Brown, Specialist, Loan Origination at NFF. 

In this video:  

  • Introducing Janet Kelly and Sanctuary of Hope. (0:29) 

  • How the needs of the community drove the creation of SOH. (1:22) 

  • The strengths of the community SOH serves. (2:38) 

  • The importance of investing in racial equity in service. (3:35) 

  • Why Full Cost funding is necessary. (5:22) 

  • A success story from SOH’s programs. (7:04) 

  • Lessons on how to connect with young people. (7:37) 


BRITTANY: What keeps you going in this work? Like, what gets you up in the morning? 

JANET: Huh. I would say there’s a lot that keeps me going besides our caramel salted cold brew. 



BRITTANY: Thank you for joining me this morning. Could you introduce yourself and tell us briefly about Sanctuary of Hope? 

JANET: My name is Janet Kelly. I am the executive director and founder of Sanctuary of Hope. And what we are is a youth development human service organization. Now, I can say that we're county-wide because we have four locations in South Los Angeles, Hawthorne, Compton, and Lancaster. 

Our work really centers around helping young people stabilize when they find themselves in a crisis, making sure that young people get connected to resources, but also create connections with loving and caring adults. And at the end of the day, we want to ensure that not only are we bolstering the resilience of young people, but we're also bolstering the resilience of our communities. 

BRITTANY: So, Janet, you have a wealth of experience in the social sector, both in your career and volunteer activities. What inspired you to get into this work? 

JANET: Mainly, the need. I mean, I always tell people that Sanctuary of Hope is a product of equity and justice. The reason why I got into this work was literally 13 years ago there were very limited, or no services, really geared towards young people. Especially young people in the South Los Angeles region that's predominantly considered kind of high populations of black households, as well as Latino households, who needed a safe place to go. Whether it was for mentorship, housing, education support, or just to really meet their basic needs.

And oftentimes, you know, young people – they can be brutally honest, you know – complained about the fact that there wasn't anything kind of really relevant that catered to not only their identity and cultural needs, but really met them where they were at, and really affirmed who they are. 

BRITTANY: Can you tell us about their strengths and what are the forces holding them back and how does that inform your programing? 

JANET: I would say their strength is their humanity – simply the fact that they exist as individuals, they're loving, they're caring young people. It's just many of them have had life experiences and challenges, whether it's household stress, social stress, economic stress, education stress. And really them on their own, right? Through their own resilience, through their own agency, have managed to survive through it all. And I say a lot of them have really tapped into their agency and I think that's the strength that they have. It's for us helping them to level up and get to that next level of support and transformation. 

BRITTANY: I know SOH has a strong commitment to racial equity as well. Can you tell us more about your approach? And do you have any advice for people who want to implement that same approach in their organizations? 

JANET: I like to be very frank. There has been an environment for years that has been very anti-black. Right? 

BRITTANY: Correct. 

JANET: And because of that environment, and even in spaces where we would not think – even in our justice spaces – it continues to permeate. And so helping people see, one that our young people are not troubled, that our young people have all of the passion and the vigor and the ingenuity to be great, wonderful citizens. It only requires an investment, whether it's an investment of people and time, whether it's investment of resources that help young people level up. But it's really changing that whole culture and mindset of how people view – how people view young people, right? How do we move from looking at young people as delinquents to looking at young people through a lens of humanity? So how can I affirm your humanity and how can I transform you within your humanity, right? And how can I be a partner and be connected with you along the way? And I think every nonprofit should have some form of response to equity and justice. 

BRITTANY: Based on your experience, what would you tell funders about what they should know when funding community-centered organizations like yours? 

JANET: Fund everything.


JANET: I would start with that. Fund everything. I mean, when you fund a program, right? You need to fund every aspect that makes that program work. And I think that's always a challenge. I mean, I've been in trainings and presentations with NFF. I've been in a lot of trainings and presentations with a lot of groups around, you know, “full cost funding.” At some point we need to ensure that “full cost funding” actually happens because it's necessary. 

I mean people oftentimes, especially in the funding world, don't know that many of us have had rises in workers comp. Worker's comp alone, right, which is three times more post-COVID. Or the other challenges with, you know, just the rising cost of just doing business. Many of us are holding on to contracts that are 10, 15 years old and those contracts haven't changed since then. While the cost of doing business has, of course, changed dramatically. So I would say as a push and a policy, you know, it's really the full cost funding. I mean, we need to fund nonprofits at its total cost. 

BRITTANY: Fund, the organization as a whole. 

JANET: Mhmm.

BRITTANY: So Janet, could you share a story of SOH’s work that you're proud of?

JANET: We've had a young person that was featured on Good Morning America with Robin Roberts. She was actually one of the first young people that SOH provided services to. She is now not only a mom, and married, a homeowner... 


JANET: A caterer, all those things. I mean, all of this just makes me proud. 

BRITTANY: Reflecting on the lessons you have learned as a leader of this organization, are there lessons in leadership you think would be important to share with our listeners? 

JANET: Our young people, they need exposure. Our young people, they need connections. Our young people want to be a part of something, like they're always looking for a way to contribute. So when we talk about community resilience, when we talk about community safety, all of those things become really relevant. Because if we understand how young people are integrally a part of our community and we create space for them to participate, to integrate, to contribute, we make a better society for everyone. And I think that – that's my nugget that I want to leave with everyone.



Watch more episodes of Where We Go From Here.