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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

Frequently Asked Questions

Read the information below to find answers to some of the most common questions we receive. If you aren’t finding what you’re looking for, more information is available in these pages, or you may submit a question through our website.

What is the official definition of homelessness?

The Federal government uses multiple definitions of homelessness according to its different agencies. The Department of Housing & Urban Development, which is principally responsible for programs addressing homelessness through the Continuum of Care program, uses a comparatively narrow though complex definition of homelessness. Since this is employed for the annual Point-in-Time Count, which is widely cited as the official estimate of homelessness in the United States, the HUD definition is arguably the most authoritative. (Read more about the problems with the PIT Count.)

The National HCH Council’s primary constituency includes HRSA-supported Health Centers, which operate under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) definition, which can be summarized as a person “who lacks housing” according to section 330(h)(5)(A) of the Public Health Service Act. Crucially, as the archived HRSA resource known as PAL 99-12 noted, “a recognition of the instability of an individual’s living arrangements is critical to the definition of homelessness.” More recent HRSA resources that define homelessness include page 89 of the HRSA Health Center Program Compliance Manual and the reporting instructions for homeless patients starting on page 41 of the UDS Manual.

Are there different types of homelessness?

Yes, there are groups of people who experience homelessness in different ways, but all homelessness is characterized by extreme poverty coupled with a lack of stable housing. Children on their own or with their families, single adults, seniors, LGBTQ+ people, people of color, and veterans compose various demographic groups that may use different types of programs or services or have differing factors that contribute to their homelessness. There are also those who experience homelessness for various lengths of time (short-term, long-term, or “chronic”) or who experience multiple episodes of homelessness (refer to the previous FAQ regarding the definition of homelessness). Those who are “doubled up” or “couch surfing” may also be considered homeless for eligibility for different services. While demographic differences or varying lengths in the experience of homelessness often provide important background for service providers (both to adapt their practice and to help enroll them in specialized programs), there is a danger in focusing on subpopulations in that resources are reserved until people become the most desperate, creating a “race to the bottom.” Nothing but stable housing fundamentally differentiates those who experience homelessness and those who don’t, and all people deserve the human right to housing.

When and how was the Health Care for the Homeless Program created? What does it do?

The Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) Program started in 1985 through 19 demonstration projects funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Memorial Trust. The intention of these initial projects was to determine if a specialized model of delivering services could improve the health of individuals experiencing homelessness. Federal funding for more projects began in 1987 through the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. In 1996, HCH programs were consolidated with community health centers and other primary care programs administered by HRSA’s Bureau of Primary Health Care. By law, HCH grantees receive 8.7% of appropriated health center funds. There are now roughly 300 HCH-funded health centers nationally—at least one in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico—nearly 60 of which receive only the HCH grant from HRSA. Learn more about the history of the HCH Program in the 2016 publication Health Care for the Homeless: A Vision of Health Care for All.

Like other health centers, HCH programs are community-based and patient-directed organizations that serve low-income populations with limited access to health care. Each is located in a medically underserved community, is a nonprofit organization or public entity governed by a community board, and provides comprehensive primary care as well as supportive services (education, translation, transportation, etc.) that promote access to health care. All services are provided on a sliding scale with fees adjusted based on income and the ability to pay, and no patient may be turned away due to inability to pay. Unlike other health centers, HCH programs are required to provide substance use disorder treatment services.

What is the relationship between health, housing, and homelessness?

Poor health (illness, injury and/or disability) can cause homelessness when people have insufficient income to afford housing. This may be the result of being unable to work or becoming bankrupted by medical bills.

Living on the street or in homeless shelters exacerbates existing health problems and causes new ones. Chronic diseases, such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes, mental health problems and other ongoing conditions, are difficult to manage under stressful circumstances and may worsen. Acute problems such as infections, injuries, and pneumonia are difficult to heal when there is no place to rest and recuperate.

Living on the street or in shelters also brings the risk of communicable disease (such as STDs or TB) and violence (physical, sexual, and mental) because of crowded living conditions and the lack of privacy or security. Medications to manage health conditions are often stolen, lost, or compromised due to rain, heat, or other factors.

When people have stable housing, they no longer need to prioritize finding a place to sleep each night and can spend more time managing their health, making time for doctors’ appointments, and adhering to medical advice and directions. Housing also decreases the risk associated with further disease and violence. In many ways, housing itself can be considered a form of health care because it prevents new conditions from developing and existing conditions from worsening. Learn more in Homelessness & Health: What’s the Connection?

How many people does the Health Care for the Homeless Program serve each year?

In 2017, the nation’s 1,373 community health centers treated 1,361,675 patients experiencing homelessness altogether, up from 1,262,961 in 2016. The 300-some HCH-funded health centers served 70% of these patients (949,818). Notably, this is nearly double the “official” estimate from the annual Point-in-Time count.

Where can individuals experiencing homelessness go to obtain health care services?

Low-income individuals can obtain health services at any health center in their community, which, in principle, cannot turn anyone away for inability to pay. Find the nearest health center through this interactive search tool, or find HCH-specific clinics in our online directory. In many communities, simply dialing 2-1-1 on the phone will reach social services.

My organization is interested in becoming a health care for the homeless site; where can I find more information?

HRSA allows basically two opportunities to become a health center grantee: the New Access Point (NAP) and the Service Area Competition (SAC). NAPs are seldom released with advanced notice, and HRSA has made NAPs available just twice in the last several years. SACs allow prospective health centers to compete for the grant of existing health centers. The best method of keeping abreast of SAC and NAP opportunities is to subscribe to the BPHC mailing list.

If funding becomes available, the Council can help with the application process. Contact us at www.nhchcorg/ta.

Are health care services available for homeless youth?

Yes, Health Care for the Homeless programs (and health centers in general) provide a wide range of primary care and other services to children and youth experiencing homelessness. While youth of any age can be served at HCH clinics, laws vary state-by-state about the types of services that youth can receive without parental consent. For minors who are not together with their family, parental consent can be a challenge to obtain. In these circumstances, providers will do everything they can to find the appropriate person who will consent to care. Students experiencing homelessness should contact their school’s McKinney-Vento point-of-contact to get connected to specialized services. You may also learn more from the National Network for Youth.

What types of housing and health services are available to veterans?

Returning veterans who are experiencing homelessness can be connected to the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, a separate program administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). There is a coordinator for this program at each VA medical center who can assist veterans in accessing housing and supportive services. More information on these services is available here.

Veterans can also access health services at any health center. In fact, nearly 330,271 veterans received care at health centers in 2017.

What is Medical Respite Care, and how can I learn more?

Otherwise known as recuperative care, Medical Respite Care is acute and post-acute medical care for homeless persons who are too ill or frail to recover from a physical illness or injury on the streets but are not ill enough to be in a hospital. It is a critical (though still emerging) program in communities’ efforts to end homelessness for the most vulnerable in that it meets the needs of hospitals to provide safe discharge for their patients, and it allows clients time to stabilize and be connected to housing and support services, avoiding worsening health and increased costs to the service system.

Medical Respite Care is the single most recurring theme in our Technical Assistance work and a priority in our new strategic plan. Our Respite Care Providers’ Network has developed the first-ever national standards for medical respite care, dozens of resources for prospective and new programs, a directory of existing programs, and dedicated staff for technical assistance on this topic. Please review our materials and contact us to receive support.

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 $1,967,147 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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