Our Mission

 We meet the needs of runaway, homeless, and other troubled youth and their families from Milwaukee’s diverse communities by providing services to empower youth, help them resolve personal and family problems, strengthen family relationships, and support safe and stable homes.

We are a private non-profit corporation and have helped provide Milwaukee area youth and families since 1976. We offer shelter, counseling, educational and other services to help youth resolve problems and strengthen family relationships.

Teens usually come to us for help because they have serious problems at home. Many leave home because of reported physical or sexual abuse or neglect. Many of these teens also come from alcohol or drug addicted families.

Recent years have shown a major rise in homeless youth needing services. We are here to encourage families to work out their problems, help youth to decide upon a positive course of action and ensure a more stable living environment for youth.


Outcome Reports


At Time of Discharge

“I’ve learned how to live independently, and am confident I have the ability to get back on my feet.”


Resident Teens

“The Center is a great program … and I am really grateful that it was here when I had nowhere to go.”


Parent Participants

“I look at things differently, understand more, listen better.”

Meet the Leaders

Executive Director

Audra O'Connell, M.S.

Executive Director

As Executive Director of Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center, Audra O’Connell (pronouns: she/her) empowers her team to help youth and families in crisis overcome challenges they face and when done right, prevents them from ever happening. With her holistic perspective of homelessness, and her innovation-mindedness, O’Connell is a recognized expert in systematic ways to end homelessness, with national speaking credits to her name. She has been outspoken about the need for quality, consumer based service; as well as cross-systems collaboration.

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Her career has focused on ending homelessness in Milwaukee with a unique perspective given her direct-service, system creation, and now Executive Director view, helping to ensure each lens is looked at when examining the broader issue. As Coordinated Entry Program Director at IMPACT, Inc., she created and implemented a system in which to enter Milwaukee’s emergency shelter which did away with decades-old “first come, first serve” mentality and based entrance on serving the most vulnerable first. She launched her career at The Guest House of Milwaukee as a housing case manager, eventually becoming a manager of that department.


O’Connell was named one of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Alumni Association’s Graduates of the Last Decade, 2016; Nonprofit Center of Greater Milwaukee & Young Nonprofit Professionals of Milwaukee’s Emerging Leader, 2016; and a 2017 Milwaukee Business Journal 40 under 40 recipient. She serves on numerous boards that look at addressing needs of the homeless in our community. She is currently a member of the Milwaukee Continuum of Care, the Shelter and Transitional Housing Task Force and the Wisconsin Association of Runaway and Homeless Youth. She was formerly in the State of Wisconsin Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness; State of Wisconsin Homeless Management Information Services Advisory Board; Milwaukee Emergency Food & Shelter Program Board; and COPE Workgroup of the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division Mental Health Redesign. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee with a B.A. in Comparative Religion and an M.S. in Cultural Foundations of Community Engagement and Education. Audra is also a mother to five feisty girls and in her spare time operates an organic farm with her husband.

Staff Leadership

Mary Pickering

Executive Assistant

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Mary Pickering (pronouns she/her) has been with the agency for 43 dedicated years and oversees the financial operations of the agency. Mary is meticulous and prides herself in attention to detail.


She is a Milwaukee native and has been married for 45 years to her husband Duane; and together they have raised two accomplished sons in their careers.  Mary enjoys camping and hiking and has done so in many parks throughout the United States and Canada.  International travel is important to her and finds it challenging for her physical, mental, and emotional health.  Mary has visited these countries:  Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, New Zealand, Croatia, Germany, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and the UK.

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Tonya Lyons, MSCJ,

Certified Youth Advocate

Director of Housing & Crisis Services

Tonya Lyons is the Director of Housing and Crisis Services at Walker’s Point Youth and Family Center who oversees direct service operations for Insights, our transitional housing program and our Teen Crisis and Runaway Program.

Tonya joined our organization in 2017 as a community volunteer, continued her involvement as a graduate intern, and served as the Director of AmeriCorps and Volunteer Programs at our teen shelter. In addition to managing housing and crisis programs at Walker’s Point Youth and Family Center, she also serves as a member of the board of directors for the Wisconsin Association for Homeless and Runaway Services. Tonya holds a master’s degree in Criminal Justice and a Graduate Certificate in Child Advocacy Studies from the University of Wisconsin Platteville. In her spare time she enjoys Esports and knitting.


Curtis Cook II is the Director of Volunteers & AmeriCorps Programs with years of experience working alongside community leaders and elected officials.

Curtis specializes in donor strategy and engagement, people management, grassroots organizing and political affairs. Curtis is a powerful force in the workplace and uses his positive attitude and tireless energy to encourage others to work hard and succeed. In his free time, Curtis likes to practice the trumpet and is an avid reader.

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Curtis Cook II

Director of Volunteers & AmeriCorp Programs


Dr. Lauren Mascari



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Dr. Lauren Hsiao-ling Mascari (pronouns: she or they) graduated with her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in 2021, where she was an Advanced Opportunity Program Scholar. In 2016, she completed her Master of Science Degree in Educational Counseling, with a focus upon Community Counseling.

She earned her Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2008, majoring in Art. Dr. Mascari was selected to nationally serve as a BIPOC Employee Resource Group Leader at Rogers Behavioral Health due to her commitment to social justice and efforts toward eradicating oppressive practices within healthcare systems. Dr. Mascari has received several awards, including: National Register Associate Credentialing Scholarship, 2021; Asher Pacht Scholarship, Wisconsin  Psychological Association, 2019; RL & JL Carr Social Justice Scholar, Organization of Chinese Americans – Wisconsin Chapter, 2017. Dr. Mascari specializes with youth and families. They garnered over 15 years of experience working with children and families as a bilingual (Spanish-speaking) case manager, Autism specialist, respite care provider, and behavioral health therapist. She has experience providing individual, group, milieu, and family therapy in Child and Adolescent Day Treatment Programs, In-Patient Psychiatric Hospitals, and a community-based shelter serving youth in the Greater Milwaukee area. Their training is trauma-informed, with an emphasis upon addressing suicidal ideation, non-suicidal self-injury, anxiety, depression, externalizing behaviors, ADHD, ADD, ODD, substance use, and other mood disorders. Primary treatment modalities include Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), and developmentally appropriate play-based interventions.

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Ryan Miller



Ryan Miller (pronouns: he/him/his) is a licensed therapist at Walker’s Point Youth and Family Center within our Runaway and Teen Crisis Program. He is one of our two therapists on staff and has been with our agency and shelter location since 2013.

Ryan is both a Licensed Professional Counselor and a National Certified Counselor.  He earned his master’s degree in Community Counseling at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.  Ryan is an active proponent for Trauma-Informed Care and has a breadth of experience working with teens and their families through Walker’s Point and his time with a local behavioral health hospital.  Ryan has held the position of Therapist and Director of Housing and Crisis Services during his time at Walker’s Point and had also worked within our Family Support and Empowerment program for five years.  Ryan has post-master’s degree experience in the Walker’s Point Basic Center Program and has been fully licensed for several years.  Along with Dr. Mascari, he currently supervises our graduate level interns.  Ryan also likes to play Ultimate Frisbee in his free time.

Executive Committee

Justin Bielinski - President

Political Consultant

Catherine McCoy -

Vice President

Milwaukee County Library

Meg Pasternak - Treasurer Senior Operations Associate - Artisan Partners


Todd Witt - Secretary
Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator - Zablocki VA Medical Center

Directors at Large

Liz Bickley

Senior VP of Healthcare Client Services - Cielo


Cylest Brooks

Self Employed


Chrissy Ficks

Director of Business Automation - MGIC


Nicole Glaser

Manager of Advocacy Services - Aurora Healing & Advocacy Services

Marissa Lopez

 Executive Director - 

World Gastroenterology Organization

Michelle MacPhail

Legal Counsel III - Milwaukee County Division of Child Support

Advisory Council

Ryan Anderson

John Barnes – Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
Alan Blaskowski – OneAmerica
Craig Counsell – Milwaukee Brewers
Gail Hanson – Aurora Health Care
Benjamin Levin – Foley & Lardner, LLP
Mary Lux – U.S. Bank
Carole Meekins – Today’s TMJ4
Brett Meili – U.S. Bancorp Fund Services
Gene Mueller – 620 WTMJ Radio
Chris Nashban
Jim Neubauer – OneAmerica Retirement Services
David Ryan – Foley & Lardner, LLP