Pastor Nati Alvarado
Nati Alvarado was born, raised, and currently resides in Santa Ana. where he has now cultivated over 30 years of gang and violence prevention, intervention, and mediation as well as street outreach and
in-school restorative practices.
When Nati was just 13 years old, he was arrested for the first time, and at 15, he became a young father amidst his developing heroin addiction and cycles of drugs, gangs, and incarceration. In turn, he spent a significant portion of his youth in and out of juvenile and adult detention centers.
The vision of Neutral Ground manifested from his life riddled with incarceration, in which Nati began to understand the significance of creating spaces that are neutral for those who have reacted to their marginalization with the implicit dehumanization of others. He began understanding that violence stems from individuals dehumanizing others, and that one thing the carceral system did was bring people together in one place where they were forced to learn that those surrounding them were just as vulnerable and human as they are–
even when they came from different neighborhoods.
In 1990, at the age of 30, following his time in a post-carceral Christian Rehabilitation program, Nati began setting the building blocks of what was to become the foundation of Neutral Ground, cementing his vision to change the story of youth justice and preventing community violence. In the beginning, all he carried with him was his life experience; no funding. In 2000 he began a transitional housing program, a passion project, which would not begin receiving official grant funding and non-profit recognition for close to 20 years. But what Nati emphasizes is that it never has and never will matter if the money is there, because him and Neutral Ground always will be.
Through Nati’s House transitional housing program, he amplified his mission and goals to establish Neutral Ground, returning to the streets to give back to a community he had once damaged. He has been changing the story in Orange County for over 32 years, so that those cycles of gangs, drugs, and incarceration that had once entrenched
him would no longer swallow up the kids in his community.
Because of Nati Alvarado, Neutral Ground exists as an agency that is truly homegrown, and reflective of the heart and human capital of the City of Santa Ana. Serving as the Founder and Executive Director of
Neutral Ground, Nati is changing the story every single day.