14 Images

Help from a friend

Milena Slatten, center, shuttles files from the district attorney’s offices on the 17th floor to the Division 30 courtroom on the fifth floor. Thanks to Thomas Higgins, a prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, Milena has a full-time job as a clerk at the Los Angeles County courthouse. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
Milena works in the complaints division of the district attorney’s office. After enduring a Soviet orphanage, foster care and the streets, the 20-year-old has found a friend in Higgins. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
Milena confers with deputy district attorney Pam Frohreich in Division 30, one of the busiest criminal courtrooms in the city. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
On most days, Milena works at the prosecution table in Division 30. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
Milena tries to remember where she placed a court file as deputy district attorney Pam Frohreich looks on. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
Milena sits at deputy district attorney Tom Higgins’ desk while she waits for him in his 17th-floor office in the downtown criminal coutrs building. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
Milena met Higgins when he showed up at a mixer for potential mentors at Covenant House, a Hollywood homeless shelter where she was then living. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
Milena jokes with Higgins on the way to lunch, which they often share. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
Milena chats with coworker Julie Wong in the district attorney’s 17th-floor offices. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
Slatten stretches in the Division 30 courtroom. The tumult there seems to suit her. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
Milena reads a music magazine at a Hollywood newsstand while making the rounds of her favorite haunts. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
Milena pores over CDs on sale at Virgin Records Megastore in Hollywood. She’s a fan of Evanescence singer Amy Lee. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
Milena waits for a Red Line train. After Covenant House asked her to move out, Higgins intervened with the organization, which allowed her to stay. She has started seeing a therapist and has begun smiling more. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)
Milena does pull-ups from the handrail of a Red Line train. “She’s no longer a victim,” Higgins says of Milena, “but with that comes the liability of responsibility.” (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)