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HPRI Symposium: Moving Toward an Anti-Racist System for Ending and Preventing Homelessness: Health Equity

Tue, August 23, 2022 @ 8:30 am - 11:00 am

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Health and wellbeing sit at the core of a person’s ability to live life as they see fit. Whether an injury that hinders a person’s ability to work and earn an income or disability that makes traveling to various appointments onerous, it is easy to see the many ways that ill health can lead to, or exacerbate, housing insecurity and homelessness. People living with mental health challenges regularly face barriers to securing and maintaining employment (Poremski et al., 2014) and that lack of secure employment can lead to homelessness, where we can observe an overrepresentation of people living with serious mental illnesses (Perry and Craig, 2015). Additionally, often for people that are struggling to maintain housing, the job opportunities available to them are temporary, inconsistent in pay/benefits, and can be dangerous (Shier et al., 2012). These realities of employment may not only compound existing mental or physical health challenges but could even create new ones that destabilize employment, financial, and housing stability. Finally, structural challenges such as environmental racism and inequities in health services compound the issue of high healthcare costs in America for those most at risk of housing insecurity and homelessness (Spalter-Roth and Lowenthal, 2005).

Join us as we explore these themes through emerging research, learnings from lived experiences of homelessness, rising best practices, and discussion of ongoing intersectional dynamics between research, policy and practice. Together we will seek to create deeper understandings of how equitable health interventions can increase housing and housing stability, and how housing itself can act as a form of healthcare and community wellness.

Presenters and Panelists:

Vanessa Rios
, Senior Program Manager, Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH)
Vanessa Rios worked as a Senior Program Manager at Corporation for Supportive Housing (commonly known as CSH), where she was responsible for project management in the areas of workforce development, property management, and older adult homelessness.

Rios grew up in East Los Angeles during the early 1990s. Her passion for public service ignited as a child when she was exposed to the destructive effects of poverty and powerlessness in her community. She began working with AB 2034 (funded services to reduce homelessness among the mentally ill) homeless persons on Skid Row in Los Angeles at age twenty-one. She moved on to work in supportive housing, providing services for formerly homeless individuals with a history of substance use, severe mental illness, and/or physical disability. It was here that she gained a deep understanding of homelessness—why they were there, what they needed to survive, and their greatest obstacles. Her work includes a research project titled “Frontline Workers: Urban Solutions for Developing a Sustainable Workforce in the Homeless Services Sector of Los Angeles County,” which looked at the relationship between retention and the needs of frontline workers. In June 2022, she released a report on peer workforce development titled “Advancing Health Equity through Skilled Peer Workers.” She holds a M.A. in Urban Sustainability and a B.A. in Liberal Studies. She believes voices struggle to be heard, and given the opportunity, she hopes to make her voice speak strongly for many.

Ian Costello, Program Manager, CSH
Ian Costello (he/him) is a program manager on CSH’s national Strategy and External Affairs team. Ian joined CSH in 2018 and his work primarily focuses on data and analytics. Ian’s portfolio includes data use and sharing, analysis and reporting, dashboard development, and is particularly interested in ethical uses of data and technology to build equitable and human-centered systems. Ian has worked with many communities designing and implementing CSH’s signature FUSE initiative projects across the country using data to link frequent users of justice, health, and homeless systems of care to supportive housing. He has written a number of products for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on data and racial equity, including how to use public and administrative data to analyze racial equity, and establishing racial equity performance measures.

Prior to his work at CSH, Ian was the Manager of the Performance Analysis and Reporting unit at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the collaborative applicant for the LA Continuum of Care, covering most of Los Angeles County where he lives. There, he was responsible for project evaluation, performance analysis, data visualization and dashboards, as well as all performance reporting responsibilities for the agency.

Jayden Alexander
, Life Skills Advocate, Housing Works
Jayden Alexander is a CSH SpeakUp! advocate who works as a life skills advocate/coach at Housing Works to guide individuals to become independent from experiencing homeless. Jayden’s past of being homeless and experiencing it for four years make him the kind, humble man he is today, allowing him to give others the love he never had.

Celina Alvarez
, Executive Director, Housing Works
Celina Alvarez is a proud Tejana…(Texan/Mexican)….born and raised in rural West Texas where tumbleweeds and dust storms are plenty. If you have ever seen the movie No Country For Old Men….that’s where she grew up. A town with few traffic lights, a Wal-Mart, a Federal Prison, OIL, and lots of Catholics. Upon graduating from college, Celina moved to LA to pursue a journalism degree but her life took a different turn. Instead, she entered into the nonprofit sector in 1993 during the peak of the AIDS epidemic. In 1999, she met Mollie Lowery who would, for 17 years, show her the ropes relevant to harm reduction and housing first principles. Celina joined Housing Works in 2008 as one of the first members of the nationally recognized Mobile Integrated Services Team. In 2015 she earned a bachelors degree in Social Work from CSULA and in that same year, she was promoted from the frontline into the Executive Director role at Housing Works. In 2017 she obtained a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Antioch University Los Angeles. As for the journalism dream…she enjoyed a seven year stint as a senior producer on 90.7FM, KPFK’s Feminist Magazine. Celina loves the aroma of freshly cooked food and a beautiful sunset. Celina has a 27yo and 23yo and a vivacious 2 year old grandson. She lives in beautiful Altadena with her partner and their dog Winston.

LaVonna Lewis, PhD
, MPH, Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

LaVonna Blair Lewis, Ph.D., MPH, is a Teaching Professor and the Director of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. She joined the University of Southern California faculty in the Fall of 1996.

Dr. Lewis’ areas of research consistently focus on cultural competency and the health status and health care needs of underrepresented groups. She is currently involved in addressing racial disparities cardiovascular disease and diabetes through the Community Health Councils, Inc., African American Building a Legacy of Health Project. The project, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a community based project that explores individual, organizational, and community support for (and barriers to) healthy living.

Her work has appeared in the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of General Internal Medicine, and other health management and policy journals. Moreover, all of the work to date has employed a community based participatory research framework that partners with the relevant stakeholder groups in developing the research questions.

She is a member of the Board of Directors for the Association of University Programs in Health Administration; and the Standards Council for the Commission on Accreditation in Health Management Education. She is also a member of several associations including the American College of Healthcare Executives and Community Campus Partnerships for Health.

D’Artagnan Scorza, Ph.D., Executive Director, Racial Equity, Los Angeles County CEO

Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza is the inaugural Executive Director of Racial Equity for Los Angeles County overseeing the Anti-Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (ARDI) Initiative and working to expand the County’s work on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion.

The Inglewood, CA native brings years of experience to his role as a national expert on issues focused on poverty, education and public health. Currently, a lecturer in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Dr. Scorza works to prepare students to apply community organizing to center community voice and change health policy.

Previously, Dr. Scorza served 14 years as the Executive Director and Founder of the Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) leading health, environmental, housing and educational justice. He was a Business Alliance for Local Living Economy Fellow (BALLE), an Education Pioneers Fellow, a UC Regent Emeritus and a former President of the Board of Education for the Inglewood Unified School District. In these positions, he worked to launch programs that helped youth of color become social justice leaders and college graduates, passed policies that prioritized $160 million for student services across UC campuses, and secured $350 million to support school construction for K-12 schools.

A U.S. Navy Iraq-War Veteran and civic leader, he has been recognized as one of the 40 Emerging Civic Leaders under 40 in 2018 and received the UCLA Recent Graduate Achievement Award in 2016.

Dr. Scorza attended both UCLA and National University and earned his Ph.D. in Education from UCLA. His work is cited in multiple publications including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, and you can hear him in several podcasts.


Gary Painter, Director, Homelessness Policy Research Institute
Gary Painter is a Professor in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. He also serves as the Director of the Homelessness Policy Research Institute. He recently published a co-authored book entitled, “Payment by Results and Social Impact Bonds: Outcome-based Payment Systems in the UK and US.” He has published numerous articles in top journals such as the Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Urban Economics, Urban Studies, Journal of Human Resources, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Real Estate Economics, Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, and Regional Science and Urban Economics.

Professor Painter is a leading figure in the field of social innovation. In addition to his recent book, he works extensively with a variety of social innovation organizations and collective impact networks to address some of the grand challenges that society faces. His current research focuses on how to activate the social innovation process. Professor Painter also has extensive expertise in housing, urban economics, and education policy, which shapes his research on how the social innovation process can identify new models of social change within these complex policy areas.

Saba Mwine, Managing Director, Homelessness Policy Research Institute
Saba Mwine (She/Her/Hers) is the managing director of the Homelessness Policy Research Institute, a collaborative of over seventy researchers and policymakers that accelerate equitable and culturally informed solutions to homelessness in Los Angeles County by advancing knowledge and fostering transformational partnerships between research, policy, and practice. She has over 16 years of experience spearheading projects throughout the nation that measure, investigate and enforce equal access to housing based on multiple protected classes. Saba played numerous roles, from project designer and civil rights investigator to management consultant and educator. In her more recent tenure at the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), she established CSH’s first racial equity initiatives via fundraising, designing grant programming, developing and delivering transformative learnings, and guiding community initiatives. Saba is a classically trained actor and holds a master’s of fine arts in theatre; she is committed to the performing arts as a tool for healing racial trauma and shaping community spaces. In California and nationally, Saba is a prominent voice in the movement to establish racism and white supremacy culture as the most major and least examined cause and perpetuator of homelessness.

As managing director of the Homeless Policy Research Institute, Saba is responsible for advancing the Institute’s strategic vision to accelerate equitable and culturally informed solutions to homelessness and serves as the lead staff person for all HPRI activities, including conducting and supervising rapid response research, RFP services, and research translation. Additionally, Saba supports the implementation of HPRI’s research agenda and works in close leadership with HPRI’s Race Equity Committee and other stakeholders to establish equity frameworks for key areas of the HPRI’s work. She is also responsible for planning and producing HPRI research symposia and other events and helps conduct policy outreach at the local, state, and national levels.

Seth Pickens, Director, Realization Project, Economic Roundtable
Seth is a counselor, educator, and minister. His undergraduate degree is from Morehouse, he has an MDiv from Union Theological Seminary, and an EdD from USC. Seth served for a decade as the Senior Pastor of a congregation in South Los Angeles. He has worked to decrease stigma and promote resources around mental well-being, been an elementary school teacher, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Haiti, and, long ago, a stand-up comedian.


Tue, August 23, 2022
8:30 am - 11:00 am


USC Davidson Conference Center – Vineyard Room
3409 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089