Dr. Denise McCain-Tharnstrom

Dr. Denise McCain-Tharnstrom

OCLA President & Board Chair

Our Community LA

Dr. Denise McCain-Tharnstrom is committed to designing practical approaches for connecting local homeless and vulnerable populations to needed services and promoting policy change that supports the unique needs of vulnerable children, youth, adults and families. Drawing from her background in law, policy and philanthropy, she has devoted the last 20 years to improving outcomes for homeless, resource insecure and otherwise at-risk populations.

Her current work on behalf of LA’s homeless and resource insecure individuals and families began when she established Our Community LA (OCLA) to address the informational barriers preventing homeless youth from connecting easily to available supportive services. In 2012, she guided OCLA’s release of the first Directory of Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth in Los Angeles and distributed it throughout the LA City Library system. Soon thereafter, she began developing the concept of a mobile app as a social equity tool. In 2015 she led OCLA’s expansion of the Directory to include countywide services available for homeless youth, and launched OCLA’s website designed to support LA’s vulnerable youth. That same year, she assembled a team of volunteers to work with her in the development and launch of the WIN What I Need mobile app, one of the first mobile apps in the US created to connect homeless and resource insecure youth to services. Under her leadership, OCLA has expanded the capacity of the WIN app to support everyone in need, families, adults, seniors and youth), published the 2019 Directory of Services for Homeless Youth and Adults in Los Angeles County and in 2021 launched WIN Spanish to better serve LA’s vulnerable Spanish speaking populations.

Dr. McCain-Tharnstrom has a long history of involvement in community initiatives benefiting children, youth and families. A member of the Everychild Foundation, (ECF) a LA-based private grantmaking foundation which funds non-profits serving at-risk children, she served as chair of ECF’s Grant Screening Board (2003-2006), Secretary/Treasurer of the Board (2004-2007), Founding Chair of ECF’s Public Policy Committee, (2007-2014) and chaired ECF’s inaugural State of Our Children Conferences held in 2013 and 2016. She was a member of the steering committee for the Los Angeles Partnership for Early Childhood Investment (LAPECI) (2007-2013), founded and chaired its first public policy committee and served as LAPECI chair from 2011-2013. She has served on several local nonprofits boards and is currently a member of the Board of Directors for Children Now, the leading state-wide children’s advocacy organization. She is also an Advisory Board member for the LA City Library Council, and a member of the Blue Ribbon which organizes the LA Children’s Festival.

A former litigator, Dr. McCain-Tharnstrom received her undergraduate degree from Duke University, and her J.D. from the University of Florida. She earned her Master’s in Public Policy and Doctorate in Political Science at the University of Southern California.