Program 2020

The 2020 program on COVID AND HOMELESSNESS had two keynote presentations, and seventeen speakers will bring four municipal case studies – Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland. Presentations will include the following speakers and reporters.

Welcomes to attendees from Oregon Governor Kate Brown, California Rep. Maxine Waters, Nevada Rep. Dina Titus, California Rep. Judy Chu, and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.

The conference provided fourteen hours of continuing education credit through the Mental Health and Addiction Certification Board of Oregon and the National Association of Social Workers – Oregon.

You can watch all the conference sessions here.


Margot Kushel, MD is Professor of Medicine at UCSF

Margot Kushel, MD is a Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center and the Director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations. Margot’s research focuses on reducing the burden of homelessness on health through examining efforts to prevent and end homelessness and mitigating the effects of housing instability on health care outcomes. She uses a variety of research methodologies with an aim towards informing the development of programs and policies to end homelessness via understanding the complex interactions between health and housing. She has a particular interest in homelessness in older adults and homelessness in medically complicated individuals.

More about Dr. Margot Kushel.

Eric Tars – National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

Eric Tars serves as the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s legal director, leading its human rights, civil rights, and children’s rights programs and managing its cutting edge litigation, strategic policy advocacy, and outreach and training initiatives at the international, national, and local levels. Eric helped spearhead the launch of the Law Center’s national Housing Not Handcuffs campaign, has served as counsel of record in multiple precedent-setting cases, including Martin v. Boise in the 9th Circuit, and is frequently quoted in national and local media, including NPR, AP, New York Times, Washington Post, and VICE News.

Before coming to the Law Center, Eric was a Fellow with Global Rights’ U.S. Racial Discrimination Program and consulted with Columbia University Law School’s Human Rights Institute and the US Human Rights Network, where he currently serves as the vice-chair of the Network’s Board. Eric also teaches human rights advocacy as an adjunct professor at Drexel University Kline School of Law.

Eric received his J.D. magna cum laude as a Global Law Scholar at the Georgetown University Law Center. He received his B.A. magna cum laude in political science from Haverford College and studied international human rights in Vienna at the Institute for European Studies and at the University of Vienna.


Briana Erickson – Las Vegas Review-Journal

Briana Erickson covers homeless and veterans’ issues for the Review-Journal. A proud “Florida Woman” living in the desert, she centers her reporting around people living in the shadows.

Before joining the Review-Journal in 2017, the University of Florida graduate wrote for the North Central Florida NPR affiliate and the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She was named College Journalist of the Year by the Society of Professional Journalists.

READ – VA workers die of COVID-19, questions linger about how they were infected – July 2020

Twitter – @ByBrianaE

Merideth Spriggs – Caridad

After struggling with her own homelessness, Merideth Spriggs was hired at San Diego Rescue Mission’s Recuperative Care Unit. In 2010 she created Caridad to educate the public about homelessness and create partnerships between agencies and volunteers. She has participated in the 100,000 Homes Campaign. In 2014 in Las Vegas she joined the Downtown Rangers, to provide customer service-based outreach to people who are homeless. Spriggs served as Southern Nevada’s lead on outreach for the federal 25 Cities Initiative working with VA, HUD, and USICH to coordinate ending veterans’ homelessness in 2015.

She has been named Las Vegas’s Citizen of the Month and American Heroes Channel and People Magazine featured Spriggs as one of three finalists for the Red Bandanna Hero award.

She received a degree in Christian Education from Olivet Nazarene University and a Masters of Divinity from Nazarene Theological Seminary.

Visit Caridad, Inc.

Kathi Thomas Gibson – City of Las Vegas

Kathi Thomas-Gibson addresses comprehensive community initiatives as the Director for the Office of Community Services for the City of Las Vegas. In this role Ms. Thomas-Gibson oversees key projects addressing homelessness, affordable housing development, education, youth services, neighborhood revitalization, and services for special needs populations.

Ms. Thomas-Gibson has more than 25 years of experience implementing federal grants programs including Community Development Block Grants, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, Welfare-to-Work, and other special purpose programs for at-risk communities. She is often a convener of key stakeholders and has successfully addressed complex, longstanding problems through collaborative leadership approaches. Ms. Thomas-Gibson has worked in both the not-for-profit and public sectors to enhance meaningful change in service delivery systems so that programs are efficient and effective.

Ms. Thomas-Gibson has been an adjunct instructor and frequent lecturer for higher education systems in Nevada and California. Her area of focus is leadership and management, with an emphasis on community engagement strategies.  She has a Master’s in Public Administration and received her Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Visit the City of Las Vegas Department of Community Services.

Tim Burch – Administrator of Human Services, Clark County

Tim Burch is a two-time alumnus of the University of Nevada – Las Vegas with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a master’s degree in Public Administration. He has invested over 25 years in improving health and human services systems of care while working in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. Eighteen of those years have been in local government in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada where he has served in a variety of capacities, including executive leadership roles as the Director of the Department of Social Service as well as the Director for the Department of Family Services.

Tim has also served as CEO for a provider of innovative public sector software solutions, as well as Chief Strategy Officer for a boutique public sector consulting firm, and continues to serve as graduate faculty at UNLV’s Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, School of Public Policy and Leadership. He brings all of that experience into his current role as Administrator of Human Services for Clark County.

Visit the Clark County Nevada Department of Human Services.


Deborah Kafoury – Multnomah County Chair

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury has long propelled innovative solutions to the region’s most pressing issues of homelessness, economic disparities and gaps in the behavioral health system. She co-founded the Joint Office for Homeless Services with the City of Portland, as well as A Home for Everyone, the region’s first community-wide strategy for preventing and ending homelessness, which served more than 35,000 people last year.

Deborah began her public service in the Oregon House of Representatives, and served two years as the House Minority Leader. In 2008, she was elected to the Multnomah County Commission. She was elected Multnomah County Chair in 2014 and re-elected in May 2018 for a second term.

Visit Multnomah County.

Raven Drake - JOIN
Raven Drake – JOIN

Ms. Raven Drake is a former Navy corpsman who has worked with a large coalition of peers – people with lived experience of houselessness – to build, staff and support three shelter in-place camps in Portland, Oregon for the nonprofit organization JOIN. She continues to be a strong advocate for the houseless community.

After moving to Portland in December 2019 she has struggled with being houseless, only recently being able to get herself indoors into a apartment.

She works with many organizations such as Street Roots, a local street newspaper, to support their missions for advocacy of the houseless community.

Visit Street Roots.
Visit JOIN.

Molly Harbarger – The Oregonian

Appalachia-born, Northwest-stationed, Molly Harbarger is an award-winning reporter for the The Oregonian who has covered local government, agriculture, forestry, education, health, housing and homelessness, state and national politics, and more recently on the Portland protests following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.

READ – From Rose Festival Court to death on frozen streets: Karen Batts’ lonely struggle, January 2017

READ – Homeless women in Portland community centers being moved to motel as officials waver on coronavirus strategy, June 2020

Twitter – @MollyHarbarger

Jennifer Vines, MD – Multnomah County

As the Multnomah County Health Officer and lead health officer for the Tri-County region Dr. Jennifer Vines provides physician leadership on a range of public health issues. A member of the public health leadership team responsible for advancing local public health policy, she has also served as the medical lead for outbreak response, tuberculosis treatment and prevention, and the county’s sexually transmitted disease clinic. She plays an active role in the county’s response to opiate and other substance use disorders and has helped to promote tobacco and nicotine prevention policies at the local and state levels. Dr. Vines is a champion of the Multnomah County Public Health Advisory Board public health ethics committee and physician ambassador to health systems and community groups across the region.

Dr. Vines’ other work experience includes serving as health officer for Columbia County, Oregon, and as Deputy Health Officer for several counties in southwestern Washington. Trained at Oregon Health & Science University in Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine, Dr. Vines has a master’s degree in public health and health management and policy. She practiced primary care in a variety of health clinics in the Portland area prior to pursuing full time health officer work.

Drew Grabham, LCSW – Portland Street Medicine

Drew Grabham, LCSW helped start and develop Portland Street Medicine, a coalition of volunteer medical providers, social workers, care managers, and lay people dedicated to reaching our most forgotten citizens.

In his work, Drew emphasizes the importance of truly meeting people where they are at, helping to empower people to work on their own identified goals, and to talk about the numerous systems failures that have created our unjust and discriminatory practices in healthcare and housing. Focusing on engagement, building relationships and working to repair trust, those are the first key steps to any meaningful intervention or dialogue.

READ – Portland Street Medicine, other volunteers join effort to avert COVID-19 crisis among area homeless, May 2020

Visit Portland Street Medicine.


Gale Holland – Los Angeles Times

Gale Holland covers homelessness and poverty for the Los Angeles Times. Starting in 2005, she edited the cops and courts beat, wrote news columns and covered higher education. A series about college construction abuses that she wrote with Michael Finnegan won a 2012 investigative reporting award from the Nieman Foundation. A Los Angeles native, she has worked for USA Today, Copley News and L.A. Weekly and wants to understand the consequences of urban inequality.

READ – L.A. falls far short of COVID-19 promise to house 15,000 homeless people in hotels – June 2020

Twitter – @geholland

Amy Perkins - Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority
Amy Perkins – Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority

Amy Perkins, MSW, is Special Director of Housing Central Command for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Amy came to the LAHSA from the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti. She was the Associate Director of the Access & Engagement Department for LAHSA, overseeing the training and develop of over 100 street outreach workers and aligning the department’s operations and strategic vision. Amy was a founding representative at the city’s Unified Homelessness Response Center, where she worked to help develop relationships and align the missions of multiple agencies engaged in coordinated efforts to end homelessness.

Prior to her work at LAHSA, Amy was the Director of Strategic Partnerships and oversaw Housing Navigation programs in the San Fernando Valley at LA Family Housing, one of the largest comprehensive real estate developers and homeless service providers in Los Angeles.

With a background in both domestic violence services and the adoption and foster care systems, Amy understands how the intersection of trauma, environment, and oppression can impact the lives of marginalized communities.

Visit the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Melissa Berkson – Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority

Meredith Berkson is the Director of Policy and Systems at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Meredith started her work in homeless services over a decade ago as a case manager at Glide Foundation’s Drop-In Center in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, and at The People Concern’s Access Center in Santa Monica, and then for PATH in San Francisco as their Director of Coordinated Entry and then as Regional Director of South County Programs.

At PATH she oversaw the Coordinated Entry System in Southeast Los Angeles and the immense growth of the South County Department and service portfolio, including prevention, problem solving, outreach, rapid rehousing, and permanent supportive housing programs.

Meredith is passionate about changing policies and systems to better address the needs of people experiencing homelessness.

Visit the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Mike Arnold – Midnight Mission

Michael Arnold has been the President and CEO of The Midnight Mission since January of 2016. Prior to his current position, Mike was a Certified Public Accountant and also served as Executive Director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).

Mike’s professional experience includes Big Four international public accounting and executive management roles in the non-profit and government sectors, serving in executive roles with the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital and UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and large health systems and research institutes.  He also founded an independent consulting firm specializing in federal contract and grant compliance, health care finance, and organizational management.  Learn more about Mike here

Visit the Midnight Mission.

Matt Tinoco
Matt Tinoco is a multi-platform journalist who is deeply familiar with the history, politics and people of his hometown Los Angeles, California, and more generally the American West.

He is an independent reporter for broadcast, podcast, and web, and publishes a newsletter on homelessness in Southern California, Home For Who? He’s covered housing & homelessness for the Los Angeles NPR affiliate 89.3 KPCC,, The California Report, Marketplace, NPR, and other nationally syndicated programs, and he’s published locally in Curbed, Los Angeles, LA Weekly, the L.A. Review of Books, and nationally in CityLab, Mother Jones, Politico Magazine, Quartz, VICE, Jezebel, and others.

Matt now lives in Central Los Angeles, where he is the fourth generation of his family to sit in traffic on the Hollywood Freeway. He grew up in North Hollywood, and out in the Antelope Valley and Ventura County suburbs. He attended the University of Southern California.

Get to know Matt Tinoco.


Jessica Boehm – Arizona Republic


Jessica Boehm covers the city of Phoenix  and Maricopa County for The Arizona Republic. She’s a third generation Arizonan and grew up reading The Arizona Republic and clipping coupons in the Sunday paper with her mom. She has both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Arizona State University.

READ – Feds downplay Phoenix mayor’s COVID-19 testing concerns, but commit to new mass test site in west Phoenix – July 2020

READ – ‘Do you realize … how many of them will die?’ Homeless ‘tent city’ ripe for coronavirus – March 2020

Twitter – @jboehm_NEWS

Bruce Liggett – Maricopa County Human Services Department

Bruce Liggett has decades of public and private experience in human services in Arizona. He administered State programs for persons with developmental disabilities. Bruce managed agency policy and planning at the Department of Economic Security (DES) and coordinated the development of the Arizona’s long-term care system. He established the state Child Care Administration, was an early education advocate, and later directed the private Child Care Association.

As DES Deputy Director, he managed public assistance and employment programs, providing leadership for welfare reform implementation. Bruce is the Director of the Maricopa County Human Services Department, overseeing Head Start, Community Action, Senior Services, Workforce Development, Housing, and Homelessness programs.

Visit Maricopa County Human Services Department.

Ash Uss – Andre House

Ash Uss serves as the Advocacy & Partnerships Coordinator for Andre House of Hospitality, a faith-based organization that provides basic needs to people experiencing homelessness.Currently, she is part of a team of service providers advocating for an increase in shelter beds to address the growing unsheltered homeless population in Phoenix.

Heavily influenced by her time in direct service and by findings from a research study she conducted with 100 unsheltered people in downtown Phoenix, Ash works diligently to elevate the voices of people with lived experience. She is passionate about disrupting structural, institutional and cultural practices which criminalize homelessness and poverty.

Visit Andre House of Arizona.

Lisa Glow – CASS

Lisa Glow became the Chief Executive Officer for Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) in 2017. CASS is Arizona’s largest and longest-serving emergency shelter that has been at the forefront of solutions to address homelessness since 1984. 

Lisa obtained her law degree in 1989, graduating magna cum laude from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.  She discovered her passion for service to others when she left her law practice in 1998 to work with former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano.  She first served in the Attorney General’s Office as Chief Counsel for Children, helping to deliver on Napolitano’s promises as the Children’s Attorney General. Lisa later led the Governor’s Office of Children, Youth and Families, helping Napolitano to implement her commitment to social justice for all people. 

Lisa’s focus in her first three years at CASS has raised the profile of homelessness. She has led the agency to: expand housing services for more people to quickly end their homelessness; expand partnerships with cities to fill service gaps in communities; build specialized programming for vulnerable senior citizens who are experiencing homelessness; and advocate and secure funding to the Arizona Housing Trust Fund.

Kate Brown - Oregon Governor
Kate Brown – Oregon Governor


Kate Brown, Oregon’s 38th Governor, has over 25 years of experience in standing up for working families and making government more accountable.  As Governor, she’s signed legislation to improve the state’s education system, to add jobs by passing Oregon’s largest transportation package, to contain costs by improving government efficiency and accountability, and to ensure that 95 percent of adults and all children have access to health care.

Governor Brown came to Oregon to attend Lewis and Clark’s Northwestern School of Law, where she received her law degree and Certificate in Environmental Law.

Visit the State of Oregon.

Dina Titus – US Congresswoman from Nevada


Serving the First Congressional District of Nevada, Congresswoman Dina Titus has built a strong record of achievement as both an educator and a public servant. As a professor, Dr. Titus taught American and Nevada government classes from 1979 through June 2011 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she has professor emeritus status. A noted non-fiction writer, she is internationally known for her expertise in the history and policies related to nuclear power, weaponry, and waste as well as for her knowledge of the popular lore of “Atomic Culture.”

In 1988, Dina was elected to represent the people of District Seven in the Nevada State Senate, serving as the Democratic Minority Leader from 1993 to 2008. During her service in the Legislature, Dina was a champion for quality education and renewable energy development, and a strong advocate on behalf of Nevada’s children, seniors, and persons with disabilities.

Currently in her fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Dina is the dean of Nevada’s Congressional delegation. She is a proud member of the House Committees on Transportation and Infrastructure, Foreign Affairs, and Homeland Security. In 2018, Dina was elected to become the Chair of a key Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, where she works to help Nevada’s communities better respond to natural disasters, address the devastating impacts of climate change, and fight for infrastructure projects that will benefit the most vulnerable.

Visit Congresswoman Titus’ website.

Judy Chu - US Congresswoman from California
Judy Chu – US Congresswoman from California


Judy Chu was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2009. She represents the 27th Congressional District, which includes Pasadena and the west San Gabriel Valley of southern California.

Rep. Chu currently serves on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over legislation pertaining to taxes, revenues, Social Security, and Medicare. In that Committee, Rep. Chu is a member of the Subcommittees on Health, giving her oversight over healthcare reform and crucial safety net programs, Worker and Family Support, and Oversight.

She also serves on the House Small Business Committee, which has oversight of the Small Business Administration, and is the Chair of the Small Business Oversight Subcommittee.

Chu was first elected to the Board of Education for Garvey School District in 1985. From there, she was elected to the Monterey Park City Council, where she served as Mayor three times. She then was elected to the State Assembly and then California’s elected tax board, known as the State Board of Equalization. In 2009, she became the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress in history.

Visit Congresswoman Chu’s website.


Carlos Garcia – Phoenix City Councilor

Carlos Garcia was elected City Councilor in Phoenix in 2019. He was born in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico and migrated to Arizona at the age of five, where he was raised by his mother and grandfather.

His work stands on the belief that diverse people with common struggles and vision have the power to change the course of history.  Carlos co-founded One Arizona, a non-profit coalition focused on civic engagement. He was a key player in defeating the former MCSO Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, and in challenging the notorious racial profiling law SB 1070.

Carlos lives in South Phoenix with his wife, Alexis, and their two small children, Chimal and Yaretzi. On the weekends, they enjoy cheering on Chimal at basketball games at the Kroc Center and at chess tournaments.

Learn more about One Arizona

Visit Councilor Garcia’s website

Mark Horvath – Invisible People


Mark Horvath of Invisible People has broken the mold. He’s not doing what makes sense. He’s not doing something that even pays the bills. He is living out his passion and doing what burns deep inside of him. Mark has developed Invisible People to give a face and voice to homelessness, something he knows all too well since he once lived among them. His work is extremely innovative and his ingenious use of social media for storytelling is a model for both the corporate and not-for-profit worlds.

After an extended period of unemployment and losing his house to foreclosure, Mark grabbed his camera and started to use social media to help tell the stories of people experiencing homelessness. With only a $45 start-up budget and lots of tenacity, Mark has used social media to reach a different stakeholder and change how people perceive a very serious social crisis that’s mostly ignored.

Mark regularly works on cause campaigns with major brands like Hanes, Ford, and Virgin Mobile, and has consulted for the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Los Angeles Police Department, Utah, the City of San Francisco, USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, and more. In addition, Mark has served as a guest lecturer at educational institutions across the globe including UCLA, USC, NYU, and Syracuse University. In 2018, The Nonprofit Times included Mark in their 2018 Power & Influence Top 50 nonprofit executives.

Visit Invisible People.