In 1993 Founding Director, Debora Unruh, witnessed firsthand the impact of homelessness and trauma on the next generation. While in labor with her first-born son, she watched incredulously as the woman next to her lost custody of her newborn due to her drug use and homeless situation. This experience infused in Debora passion to make a difference in this vulnerable population. Around the same time, a local Pasadena resident donated a house to the Pasadena Covenant Church for the purpose of serving at-risk women and children in the community. A small community group assembled, researched, and concluded there was no shelter for pregnant women and their children who had no place to call home within 15 miles of the city. Debora worked together with community partners and generous donors to welcome the first resident on July 15, 1994. Nearly twenty-five years later, Elizabeth House has provided essential shelter, food, care, and counseling to over 800 women and children.
Through shelter and lifelong support, Elizabeth House empowers pregnant and parenting women in need to reclaim their lives and build successful family legacies.
The women and children that enter our home become family and we stick with them long after they leave. Although staying connected and committed to the women we serve, indefinitely, is an unorthodox strategy (most homeless providers deliver services for a fixed period of time), we know based on twenty-five years of experience that it’s an effective one. From the beginning, we’re in it “as long as it takes” because we understand the impact of generational cycles of trauma, homelessness, and abuse in the lives of the vulnerable women and children we serve. At the same time, we believe change is possible, and we’ve walked with hundreds of women as they find their voice and reach their potential.
Meet Our Team
debbie unruh, executive director
Debbie Unruh is the current Executive Director of Elizabeth House. It was her passion and desire to work with a team of community volunteers to establish at a grass-roots level, a faith-based shelter program specifically for pregnant women and their children. Her prior experience working in the foster care system, first in the area of program development and then in Fundraising and Development, lent itself to the strong leadership it took to get this program up and running. Upon opening its doors in 1994, Debbie stayed on with Elizabeth House for five years in that leadership capacity. Having left to care for the needs of her growing family, she returned to Elizabeth House in 2008 to lead the organization to the next level of growth. Debbie holds a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and has served in areas of church pastoral positions, para-church organizations, and also as missionary to the Philippines.
Tiffany Goodwin-Van Camp, Director of Development
Tiffany Goodwin-Van Camp’s own experiences of young single motherhood and domestic violence grew in her a passion to empower vulnerable mothers and their children to find a healthier path and build a better life. A Southern California native, her 14-years’ of nonprofit experience include working alongside local gang members to create peace in the South Los Angeles community, developing and piloting LA’s first mentorship program for children and their mothers experiencing incarceration, and managing quality assurance and improvement systems for over 20 substance abuse recovery and mental health treatment programs. Tiffany lives in Pasadena with her now 14-year-old daughter, Cyra, and husband, Scott, LMFT. Tiffany and Scott have committed their lives to the nonprofit sector, with special focus on women and children, mental health, and the arts. Cyra, an aspiring artist, enjoys volunteering alongside her family and especially loves babysitting at Elizabeth House.
Dannielle carr, community engagement & marketing manager
Dannielle rejoined Elizabeth House in June 2019 after a hiatus to complete an MFA Creative Writing. The staff of Elizabeth House has been like family over the years, supporting her and her family through her husband’s illness and eventual passing. Returning to work has been like coming home for Dannielle who, like the women Elizabeth House serves, is focused on healing her brokenness, and raising her two young daughters. Dannielle also holds an MA Theology and Ministry and views her role at Elizabeth House as part of her calling to lift up and empower those whose lives and spirits are crushed by a harsh world.
emily kemp, program manager
Emily is passionate about developing others, embracing the diversity and uniqueness of each individual, and encouraging the growth, hope and restoration that comes through journeying alongside one another through our own brokenness. Her experiences with faith-based nonprofits and Master of Social Work education at APU catalyzed her desire to equip and empower communities, the Church and nonprofits through program development and collaboration. Emily lives in Pasadena with her husband, Sam, a pastor at Fellowship Church, where they both get to invest in the lives of middle schoolers and their families. As Elizabeth House continues to expand its mission of empowering mothers and children as they reclaim their lives, Emily is excited to utilize her program management and community engagement skills to grow our reach and impact.
terry bright, Director of Programs
Terry Bright has been with Elizabeth House for twenty-four years, nearly since its inception. Her expertise and experience in client case management has contributed greatly to the success and overall positive outcomes of our program. Prior to joining our staff, Terry worked with low income women and at-risk children. She is well-known among the non-profit community, specifically within the shelter program network as being a strong advocate for the health and well-being of children and their families. Terry has also contributed greatly to other programs through consulting and advising, especially in the areas of program development and case management.
Kristen Mickelson, director of alumni services & Special events
Kristen Mickelson joined Elizabeth House in September of 2010 bringing with her a wealth of skills, gifts, and experience to our program. Previously, she worked in the nonprofit sector teaching parent and child bonding classes to women and their children. Her desire and passion to be used by God to serve women and children is clearly seen in her tremendous ability to connect with our alumni. Kristen oversees every aspect of the Alumni Services Program including quarterly workshop events, in-kind donations, and special event coordination.
Kali Ratzlaff, Program Assistant
Kali has been with Elizabeth House since May 2011. Her passion to work with women in crises stems from life circumstances that left her and her daughter unemployed and homeless with nowhere to go and no place to turn. She lived most of her life in Memphis, TN and Fruita, CO and has now settled in California. Kali brings with her technological and organizational skills to enable Elizabeth House to operate seamlessly.
Paige Harris, development associate
Paige graduated from UC San Diego in 2018, and joined Elizabeth House in 2019. In the hustle and bustle of planning the 25th anniversary gala, she realized that she loved not only Elizabeth House’s mission, but the warmth of the staff, volunteers, and donors that make it all possible. With a background in event planning and community engagement, Paige fits right in to help the Development team run smoothly and efficiently - and to have a little fun while doing it! Her Jewish faith has drawn her to social justice issues across southern California, and she is proud to represent the growing engagement and involvement of new generations in charitable work.