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Our Staff

The principal office of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council is in Nashville, Tennessee. Staff and contractors pursue our ambitious agenda in research, training, education, organizing, and advocacy from offices in various locations. Staff members include:

 

 

Bobby Watts

Bobby Watts, MPH, MS, CPH

Chief Executive Officer

G. Robert “Bobby” Watts is the chief executive officer of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and oversees all aspects of the Council’s activity in advocacy, training, technical assistance, research, peer support, organizing, and fund development.

A nationally recognized advocate and leader in meeting the health needs of people without homes, he has more than 25 years of experience in administration, direct service, and implementation of homeless health services. He began his work with people experiencing homelessness as a live-in staff member of the New York City Rescue Mission in Manhattan. Learn more about Bobby.

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292 | Email Address: bwatts@nhchc.org

 

Hugo Aguas, MA

Research Associate

Hugo works with the research team to research health outcomes using data driven methodologies, Hugo collaborates with other community health partners throughout the country to develop educational materials pertaining to medical care for those experiencing homelessness. Hugo also disseminates data and provides ease-of-access to community partners throughout the nation, and assists in writing publications and scheduling educational seminars on public health amongst those experiencing homelessness.

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292 | Email Address: haguas@nhchc.org

 

Lauryn Berner, MSW, MPH

Research Manager

Lauryn works with the research team to support the Health Care for the Homeless field by developing and disseminating knowledge, increasing visibility of HCH-related research through publications and external collaborations, and providing data-driven support to inter-departmental teams and workgroups. Lauryn serves as the Council’s subject matter expert on housing and HIV, and her work has focused on the social determinants of health.

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 230 | Email Address: lberner@nhchc.org

 

 

Alaina Boyer, PhD

Director of Research

Alaina provides oversight and guidance for the research activities of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, which include quality improvement projects and providing educational resources for health care clinics that serve individuals experiencing homelessness. She coordinates and facilitates the Research Committee and Practice Based Research Network initiatives, which are currently focused on improving health outcomes and providing quality care across systems for vulnerable populations.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 233 | Email Address: aboyer@nhchc.org 

 

Lily Catalano, BA

Clinical Manager

Lily coordinates the work of the Health Care for the Homeless Clinicians’ Network and develops resources to improve access to and quality of health care for people experiencing homelessness.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 231 | Email Address: lcatalano@nhchc.org

 

 

Katherine Cavanaugh, MSW

Consumer Advocate

Katherine staffs the National Consumer Advisory Board (NCAB), helps to coordinate consumer initiatives, and further develops Council relationships with local Consumer Advisory Boards (CABs).

Contact Information

Phone Number: (443) 703-1320 | Email Address: kcavanaugh@nhchc.org

 

Andrea Crowe, MA

Advancement Coordinator

Andrea maintains the Council's donor and membership database; manages fundraising lists of individuals, organizations, and foundations; and provides a range of administrative services in the areas of philanthropy and member relations.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 234 | Email Address: acrowe@nhchc.org

Brandon de la Cruz, MM

Media and Technology Manager

Brandon manages media-based communication activities for the Council -- including webinars, videography, photography, and music production -- and provides guidance and support for information technology services.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 249 | Email Address: bdelacruz@nhchc.org

Barbara DiPietro, PhD

Senior Director of Policy

Barbara directs the policy and advocacy activities for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. This includes conducting policy analysis, providing educational materials and presentations to a broad range of policymakers and other stakeholders, coordinating the Council’s policy priorities with national partners, and organizing staff assistance to the Policy Committee and the National Consumer Advisory Board.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (443) 703-1346 | Email Address: bdipietro@nhchc.org

 

 

Jennifer Dix, BBA

Communications Coordinator

Jenn provides assistance with the Council’s marketing and branding efforts. This includes supporting effective communication strategies via email communications, newsletters, marketing materials, website content, and social media.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 225 | Email Address: jdix@nhchc.org

 

 

Julia Dobbins, MSW

Director of Medical Respite Care

Julia joined the Council in 2012 and leads our work on medical respite care. She provides guidance and oversight for medical respite activities including training, technical assistance, and resource and program development. Additionally, she is the staff liaison to the Respite Care Providers’ Network (RCPN) and coordinates and facilitates the activities of the RCPN steering committee.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 232 | Email Address: jdobbins@nhchc.org

 

D. Michael Durham, MTS

Community Engagement Manager

Michael is responsible for strategic relationship-building and increasing representation of marginalized communities in all of the Council’s work. Leaning on these relationships, he coordinates the Council’s largely peer-to-peer technical assistance program, which provides support to health centers and other organizations serving people experiencing homelessness. He also supports the CEO in certain racial equity initiatives.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 246 | Email Address: mdurham@nhchc.org

 

 

Dorothy (Dott) Freeman, PhD

Senior Director of Advancement

Dott is the Council's Senior Director of Advancement and has more than 25 years of fundraising experience in a variety of areas, including service-oriented nonprofits, health care, and education. Heading the Council's Advancement Team, she leads our philanthropy, communications, membership, media, and technology initiatives.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (207) 333-8877 | Email Address: dfreeman@nhchc.org

 

 

Melanie Harper, BA, LSSGB

Director of Finance & Administration

Melanie is responsible for oversight of all the financial and administrative functions of the Council and staffs the Finance & Personnel Committee.

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 229 | Email Address: mharper@nhchc.org

 

 

Darlene Jenkins, DrPH

Senior Director of Programs

Darlene oversees the work of the Education and Research Teams.

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 228 | Email Address: djenkins@nhchc.org

 

 

Joseph Kenkel, BS

Research Assistant

Joey works with the research team to support the Health Care for the Homeless field by developing and disseminating information, increasing visibility of HCH-related research through publications and external collaborations, and improving the HCH field and community’s capacity for quality improvement and engagement in research. Joey also performs activities aimed to increase the knowledge base, skill set, and resources of health center staff engaged in supportive housing initiatives in partnership with the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH).

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 226 | Email Address: jkenkel@nhchc.org

 

Kelli Klein, BA

Behavioral Health Coordinator

Kelli provides technical assistance and supports the Council’s work on behavioral health and homelessness, focusing on the integration of behavioral health into primary care settings. She works specifically on the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Center of Excellence (CoE) for Behavioral Health Technical Assistance (BHTA), which includes the development and execution of webinars and peer learning opportunities through communities of practice.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 247 | Email Address: kklein@nhchc.org

 

Katie League, LCSW-C

COVID-19 Project Manager (Policy Team)

Katie works with the policy team to support the Council’s efforts surrounding the COVID-19 global pandemic. She works to identify and promote promising practices, common challenges, and key policy issues faced by the HCH community. 

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292 | Email Address: kleague@nhchc.org

Cindy Manginelli, BS

Director of Community Engagement

Cindy directs the Council’s efforts to engage and create a diverse community of individuals, coalitions, and programs that directly address issues at the intersection of homelessness and health care. She also manages the Council’s ongoing work to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within the community of those who experience and address homelessness.  

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 239 | Email Address: cmanginelli@nhchc.org

 

Julia Nettles-Clemons, BA 

Administrative Coordinator

Julia has a variety of responsibilities in the areas of finance and administration that include accounts receivable and accounts payable, office maintenance,  clerical work, operations, and database support.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 221| Email Address: jnettles@nhchc.org

Courtney Pladsen, DNP, FNP-BC, RN

Director of Clinical and Quality Improvement

Courtney leads initiatives to improve the delivery of primary care, substance use treatment, and mental health care nationally. She directs training and quality improvement initiatives, and contributes to research and policy recommendations on emerging clinical issues affecting people experiencing homelessness.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292 | Email Address: cpladsen@nhchc.org

 

 

Brett W. PoeBrett Poe, BS

Research Associate

Brett works with the research team to support the Health Care for the Homeless field by developing and disseminating information, increasing visibility of HCH-related research through publications and external collaborations, and providing data-driven support to inter-departmental teams and workgroups.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 242 | Email Address: bpoe@nhchc.org

 

 

Regina ReedRegina Reed, MPH

Health Policy Manager

Regina is responsible for representing the interests of the Council to policymakers and organizational partners in Washington, D.C., working with the Policy Committee to advance the Council’s advocacy agenda, developing policy positions and analyses, and mobilizing member organizations, service providers, and other advocates to end poverty and homelessness.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (443) 703-1337 | Email Address: rreed@nhchc.org

 

 

Caitlin Synovec, OTD, OTR/L, BCMH

Medical Respite Manager

Caitlin is an occupational therapist with clinical experience working with adults experiencing homelessness to improve quality of life and engagement in their preferred communities. As the Medical Respite Manager, she works with the Director of Medical Respite on projects of the National Institute for Medical Respite Care (NIMRC) and the Respite Care Providers’ Network (RCPN).

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292 | Email Address: csynovec@nhchc.org

 

Cecilia Willoughby, BA

Training and Meetings Coordinator

Cecilia manages logistics and educational content for the Council’s major training events, including our annual National Health Care for the Homeless Conference and Policy Symposium, Regional Training, and Governing Membership Meeting. She serves as the point person for these major training events working in concert with the Director of Finance and Administration, Administrators Committee, other staff members, and other stakeholders.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 241 | Email Address: cwilloughby@nhchc.org

Cecilia Willoughby, BA

Training and Meetings Coordinator

Cecilia manages logistics and educational content for the Council’s major training events, including our annual National Health Care for the Homeless Conference and Policy Symposium, Regional Training, and Governing Membership Meeting. She serves as the point person for these major training events working in concert with the Director of Finance and Administration, Administrators Committee, other staff members, and other stakeholders.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 241 | Email Address: cwilloughby@nhchc.org

Terri Woodmore, MS

Communications Manager

As part of the advancement team, Terri develops and coordinates ongoing communications and media strategies, and maintains high-quality communications including mass emails, newsletters, marketing materials, website design and content, social media, and audio/video packages.

 

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 245 | Email Address: twoodmore@nhchc.org

 

Brenda Wright

Executive Assistant

Brenda serves as Executive Assistant to the CEO and is responsible for Board meeting preparation, special projects, and administrative support including scheduling, preparing executive documents and correspondence, managing travel itineraries, maintaining files, and other administrative duties.

Contact Information

Phone Number: (615) 226-2292, Ext. 251 | Email Address: bwright@nhchc.org

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Racial Justice During Crises: COVID will show you whether it’s a priority

By Technical Assistance Manager Michael Durham

In college I waited tables at a fine dining restaurant. Our owner was one of these angry-chef caricatures: a tall, white man who leaned into his intimidating persona and yelled at staff during busy shifts. People who had worked there longer than me assured me that he was really a nice guy when he’s not working. I remember thinking in reaction that how you behave in times of stress is a better test of character than when you’re at leisure.

This is the case for racial justice during this pandemic. A national leader on poverty and racism, Marc Dones said it better than I could: “If equity is only your priority in times of ease and surplus then it was never really your priority.” If we are shelving whatever work we were doing on racial equity before the coronavirus outbreak, that shows us we were conceptualizing it as an initiative, something that can, in fact, be put on the backburner. The work of dismantling institutional racism within our organizations must in fact institutionalize antiracism. And the longer we wait, the more Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color will suffer.

We are witnessing the effects of structural racism in crisis response. Victims of COVID-19 are disproportionately African American. People of Asian descent are being persecuted. Compound this with the existing racial disparities in the homeless population and you have a perfect, racist storm. This should be no surprise to us given how intrinsic racism is to our society, but still calls us to action.

Many have already written about strategies to resist racism in pandemic response, which we are collecting in a section on our coronavirus webpage to supplement our antiracism resources; please listen to the calls of these Black and Brown leaders who are putting themselves at risk to show us the way. I’m also excited to host a related webinar discussion on May 26 featuring leaders from our learning collaboratives on antiracism in HCH. Please join us.

In addition, consider these lessons learned from the Council’s work so far. 

  • Experts disagree on critical issues, and that’s okay. Embrace the grey.
    Advocates and trainers on racial equity in the workplace promote many of the same strategies, but differences exist. But if diversity is a fundamental principle of the work, why would we expect uniformity?
  • Start where you are; determine where you are.
    This work often starts with assembling a committee to conduct an assessment, including analyzing your data. Tools for this abound. But don’t let data become just numbers and dehumanize the people we serve.
  • This work often starts in HR but it must extend beyond.
    Diversity is the first step, and that requires action in human resources, but if justice is the goal, it must extend beyond hiring and retention.
  • Size matters in DEI.
    Achieving a representative workforce, for example, differs with ten employees versus 100. Anonymity is another challenge for small organizations. But large organizations struggle to inspire hope that things can actually change.
  • It matters who champions equity in the organization.
    There is good reason for people of color to be suspicious of white folks who lead the charge for racial equity. But leaders of color ought not be expected to shoulder the burden. Partnership from both BIPOC and white people can be an effective solution.
  • Employing staff to oversee DEI is a rare but growing practice, and remains controversial.
    It has been useful for many homeless services nonprofits to hire Chief Equity Officers, for example, but it’s still uncommon. Some think dedicating staff to DEI outsources responsibility from management and others. It depends on to whom the Chief Equity Officer reports and the authority they have.
  • Are racially explicit or culturally specific services the future?
    We believe that if services that purport to be colorblind favor white people and disadvantage BIPOC, then equitable services will be racially and culturally explicit. But few examples exist so far.
  • Beware of checking boxes.
    When we think of this work as an initiative, we are missing the point. The goal is to move culture forward, starting with our own organizations. It is an evolutionary process.
  • External perspectives (i.e. consultants) can be helpful.
    Mistrust within organizations can stymie progress, and a third party can be a helpful mediator. Many have found investing in consultants rewarding.
  • Affinity spaces are important, but tricky.
    Many have organized affinity groups (aka caucuses) for staff to discuss racial equity with peers of the same identities. Among other virtues, this facilitates safe spaces for difficult and important discussion. Critics on process will emerge, but roll with it.
  • Buy-in from the top is essential.
    It’s hard to get anywhere if the CEO and other senior staff are resistant or complacent. If buy-in from leadership is elusive, consider finding allies who have leverage.
  • Be planful and careful, but don’t not start.
    Urgency is an element of white dominant culture, and there is no reason to rush. But complacency is also a danger. As you make careful plans, commit to near-term goals.

This website is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $1,625,741 with 20 percent financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov.

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