Who We Are

Our History

A study conducted by the Peninsula-Harbor Ecumenical Council in 1988 documented that the biggest unmet need of low income and homeless residents in the Harbor Area of Los Angeles was a shelter for homeless women, most of whom were addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Concerned about this unmet need, a group of dedicated individuals soon began an emergency food pantry and drop-in center. By 1990, the efforts of these concerned individuals resulted in the opening of SHAWL (Support for Harbor Area Women’s Lives), a six-month residential chemical dependency treatment program for homeless women. The home currently being used by SHAWL for the primary program was purchased in 2000 with grants from the Ahmanson Foundation, Parsons Foundation and the Weingart Foundation.

By 1998, a longer-term transitional housing facility, Haviland House, was opened across the street from SHAWL for women that have graduated from the SHAWL primary program. At Haviland House, eleven women can remain an additional 18 months to two years while they are in school and employed so that they can continue their case management treatment goals of maintaining sobriety, as well as freedom from homelessness and domestic violence.

The continuum of services for homeless chemically dependent women was expanded in 2012 with the opening of The Cottages, a transitional housing facility for women and their children. The Cottages allow women to live in a drug-free, violence free home with their children while working toward their self-sufficiency goals. The four women served at The Cottages are empowered to be fully independent, productive members of society while being reunited with their children.

To enhance SHAWL’s impact and stability, the Board of Directors made the strategic decision to merge with Volunteers of America Los Angeles (VOALA) in 2007. VOALA is one of Los Angeles’s oldest (founded in 1896) and largest non-profits with over $66 million in current annual operating revenue. Having earned a reputation for the willingness to serve Los Angeles’s “neediest of the needy,” VOALA is committed to bringing lasting solutions, not just temporary support, to those in need. Each year, VOALA serves more than 35,000 residents of the Los Angeles area. For more information about the mission and programs that VOALA provides, please visit the website at www.voala.org.

We are committed to helping those in need. SHAWL’s mission is to provide comprehensive services to homeless women who are affected by drugs and alcohol addiction, physical and emotional abuse. Our residential program provides a safe environment where women can heal and thrive as they move forward towards a serene and productive life.

SHAWL in the News

In 2009, SHAWL was awarded $500,000 for three years under the United States Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, Transitional Housing Assistance Grant Program.  SHAWL was again awarded $300,000 over three years in 2012.  We work closely with the Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women to ensure we are utilizing best practices for our residents.


“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
of 2009 provided the Justice Department’s Office
on Violence Against Women with $225 million,
for grants to expand efforts to combat violence
against women, and just as importantly, to
invest in the lives of those who have been
victimized and remain vulnerable”

-Attorney General Eric Holder

Meet Our Caring Staff

We have caring, knowledgeable and professional staff to assist residents with their various needs.


Laurie Whalen-Martinez, Executive Director

Laurie has been Executive Director at SHAWL since 2009. She is a graduate of Cal State University Long Beach and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies with an English Concentration. Laurie has over 24 years of management experience in business, marketing, advertising and fundraising for non-profit and for-profit organizations. Laurie believes in the strength of women if given the opportunity to excel in a safe atmosphere and is passionate about providing a safe sanctuary for women to recover at SHAWL. Laurie enjoys observing and participating in the transformations she has witnessed in the residents who have graduated from the SHAWL program.


Heather Rector, Administrative Assistant / Class B Driver

Heather graduated from SHAWL in 2003 and has been employed with SHAWL since 2005. Her passion comes from being homeless with her children and recognizing that all of her blessings have come from her struggles. Heather believes in empowering woman, restoring dignity, and instilling self-worth. She enjoys sharing her life experiences with the women at SHAWL and being able to give our residents hope.


Lisa Hanley Wolfe, Case Manager / Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor/ Class B Driver

Lisa is a certified Addictions Treatment Counselor and a Domestic Violence facilitator.Having recovered from her own personal experience, Lisa’s passion is to instill an inspiration of hope to women who suffer from the disease of addiction and the traumatic effects of domestic violence in a spiritual environment of understanding and support. “I believe it is important to assist these women to self-sufficiency and allow the process of healing to take its course.”


Marla Izabal, Case Manager / Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor

Marla is a women saved by God’s Grace who has 8 years clean from alcohol and drugs. Marla graduated from Long Beach City College with an A.A. degree in Human Services and obtained a certificate in Alcohol and Drug Studies. Marla likes working for SHAWL for its genuine compassion for women. “I want to give women hope and be a testimony that we can get better.”


Tiffany Farrand, Monitor

Tiffany has over 6 years substance free. She recently graduated with an AA in Social and Behavioral Science. She is currently pursuing a nursing degree. “I aim to provide support and encouragement to women as they begin their journey in recovery. It is never too early or too late. So let’s take this journey together.”


April Del Rio

As the newest member of our team and a graduate of the SHAWL program, April has overcome many personal obstacles triumphing over her addictions and embracing her role as a single mother of three beautiful and charismatic children. She has made a personal commitment to helping women, like herself, realized lifelong recovery. “The resources I received at SHAWL helped me to learn to triumph over my struggles with my hope, health and overall well-being. I hope I can give back as much as I have received.”

Ashanti Johnson

“I have certainly been through some trials and tribulations of my own. I am a firm believer in that you can’t give up even when the chips are down repeatedly. I was raised in South Central Los Angeles and I’ve been there my whole life. But, with all my mishaps and trials – I still made it through. I am a single mother of one, a hard worker and I am also going back to school. The one thing I learned is that you have to keep pushing, you have to keep fighting and if you don’t have something to fight for – fight for yourself no matter what life brings your way. I believe in second chances and I believe you can always turn it around.”

Alysia St. Clair

“I am very active in my recovery with meetings, sponsorship and commitments. I have been substance free since July 9, 2012. In 2010 I graduated from Los Angeles Harbor College with an associate’s degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences. I am currently attending Cal State University Dominguez Hills, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services. Next Semester, I will be enrolling in CSUDH Alcohol and Drug Certification. Through my struggles with addiction and life, I have a strong passion in helping others. I feel I have a lot of hope to give to the hopeless because I was once there. Through my obstacles, I have learned how to persevere and be a productive member of society. I feel God has me right where I am supposed to be.”

Therapy Cats (Self-Certified)





Meet Our Dedicated Board of Directors

Emily Hamilton, Senior Vice President, Human Resources Director, California United Bank

Emily joined the SHAWL board in 2011 and is currently serving as the President of the Board.  She has been in banking since 1987 and has a broad base of experience in many facets of human capital management.

“I have had experience with family members who have struggled with addiction and homelessness and have a personal understanding of how difficult it is to find resources to partner and invest in a full transformation of a life.   SHAWL’s model of services and on-going support truly address the whole person and a long-term set of solutions are part of the programs provided.  Once introduced to SHAWL, I quickly felt a connection and felt drawn to the women who call SHAWL home.   It’s a privilege to be involved and to be a witness to the life-changing impact that SHAWL is having in the lives of women in the South Bay.”

Susan B. Myers

Susan joined the SHAWL board in June of 2009 and has served since, most recently in the capacity of Board Secretary.   She is a Corporate Transactional Attorney and works in-house managing the legal department of a major automotive finance company.  Susan had the very great honor of being at SHAWL in 2009 when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder presented SHAWL with the very first Department of Justice grant of $500,000 from the Office of Violence Against Women.

Having experienced the effects of alcoholism in her own family, when a former SHAWL Board President and fellow church parishioner from St. Peters by the Sea (a long-time major supporter of SHAWL) invited her to come tour SHAWL Women’s House, she eagerly met her and took a tour of the house and the program.  The beauty of SHAWL's historical home, the depth and recovery substance of the program, and the enthusiasm and cheerfulness of the home's residents captured her heart.  When the Board invited her to join as a Board Member, she readily joined and has “enjoyed my tenure of watching this wonderful organization bloom and grow in so many ways.”

Patricia Harris DiLeva, President, In Any Event

Patricia Harris DiLeva is a seasoned event planning professional, specializing in sports and entertainment. In 2012 she founded In Any Event, a full-service event management firm. Prior to In Any Event, she spent 18 years with Perelman, Pioneer & Company in Los Angeles, CA. While with Perelman, Pat worked in the areas of event marketing, media operations, event management and production.  Throughout her career Pat has overseen the management of a variety of major events for a notable list of clients, including the Los Angeles Marathon, the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Los Angeles Convention Center, FIFA Women’s World Cup and Major League Baseball.

A native of Washington, D.C., Pat currently resides in Redondo Beach, CA with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.

Becky Clark

Becky has represented the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles since August 2006, first as a Deputy City Attorney and since August 2008 as a Sr. Staff Attorney for finance and real estate development/redevelopment matters. Prior to representing the Housing Authority, Ms. Clark worked for several years as a governmental entity bond counsel for Hawkins, Delafield and Wood, a New York based public finance law firm.  She has lived with her husband and Corgis on the Palos Verdes Peninsula for 21 years. Becky has been on the SHAWL Board of Directors for 10+ years and joined the SHAWL Board because it was the only Harbor area organization that served women in need of shelter and assistance with substance abuse issues as well as domestic violence assistance.  SHAWL’s success rate in achieving positive outcomes for its clients was particularly impressive compared to other organizations and is a one-of-a-kind women’s non-profit in the greater Harbor Area.