Portrait by Devi Pride Photography.
Elaine Johnson is from the Bronx in New York City. From an early age, community, collaboration and making a difference in her community led her to do the work that she does. She spent many years mentoring students to reach for their highest potential regardless of any barriers. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a juris doctorate from Monterey College of Law and is a certified mediator. Elaine has trained and worked in the fields of juvenile dependency, community and divorce mediation, criminal law, and nonprofits, and she has extensive experience working in restorative justice, fundraising, community outreach and engagement, and community collaboration.
One of Elaine’s biggest achievements was founding the Santa Cruz County Neighborhood Courts Program, a diversion program that serves participants throughout the county. In a little over a year, more than 40 individuals were diverted from the criminal justice system. Without this program, participants would have had a criminal record, which would dim their chances of exploring many professional opportunities. Elaine has seen firsthand the impact that people experience once they are in the criminal justice system. She continues to encourage community leaders and partners, community members, elected officials, and nonprofits to continue this important work.
Elaine is now the Executive Director of Housing Santa Cruz County, a nonprofit organization that advocates for affordable housing. She is passionate about advocating for affordable housing, creating positive change in this community, wanting the playing field to be leveled for everyone to have a seat at the table, and for there to be no limits regardless of race or background. Elaine believes there is nothing one cannot do if they are given the space, time, and support (financial and emotional) to do it.
Elaine currently serves on several local boards, including Your Future Is Our Business, Women Lawyers of Santa Cruz County, Monarch Services/Servicios Monarca, Encompass Community Services, and serves as a Commissioner for the Juvenile Justice, Delinquency Prevention Commission.
When Elaine isn’t doing community work, she enjoys singing, dancing and spending time with her partner, Shinehah. They live in Live Oak.