Nui Bezaire, Senior Associate
Mitch Wippern, Senior Principal
We are excited to welcome Nui Bezaire, Senior Associate, to the LeSar Homelessness Solutions Team! Nui brings 13 years of experience in supportive housing and homeless services and has led several large, multi-sector change initiatives in communities across the West Coast.
Nui is passionate about developing and implementing solutions to homelessness at the intersections of health and housing. She recently led the implementation of the County of Napa’s $11.3 million Whole Person Care pilot to coordinate care and provide permanent housing to more than 500 Medi-Cal beneficiaries experiencing homelessness. She also worked closely with several health plans in Oregon and California to develop first-of-their-kind flexible investment programs to quickly connect people with complex needs to housing resources. Finally, while working for Corporation for Supportive Housing, she wrote a comprehensive guide and delivered trainings that outlined practical steps for health centers and housing providers to develop lasting partnerships.
We sat down with Nui to find out more about her experience. Here’s what she shared:
LDC: What are some of the proudest achievements so far in your career in homeless services and supportive housing that will inform your work at LDC?
I had the unique opportunity to both write a plan for transforming a community’s homelessness system and implement that plan on the ground in the community. While working at Corporation for Supportive Housing, I worked closely with the National Alliance to End Homelessness and we took multiple approaches to analyzing the performance and functioning of the homelessness system in the County of Napa. With a great deal of community input, we worked together to develop strategies to transform Napa’s system into a homelessness crisis response system and expand Napa’s capacity to take this new approach. This led to a position working for the City and County of Napa to manage the implementation of this plan – an opportunity I immediately jumped on! I feel so fortunate to have been able to test the recommendations I made as a consultant and then overcome the challenges of implementing them on a large scale, as a member of the community.
Another proud achievement for me was creating the first-ever community standards for supportive housing, which were included as part of the investment requirements for Portland’s local general obligation bond for affordable housing. The Spring 2019 funding solicitation I developed (while working for the Portland Joint Office of Homeless Services) in partnership with the Portland Housing Bureau also included, for the first time, braided funds, by three public sector agencies, to completely fund the capital, rental assistance, and services for supportive housing units. This was a big win in the Portland community where there were various definitions of supportive housing and funding sat in silos.
Collaboration with the health sector only continues to grow and many communities across the West Coast are ramping up planning and production of more affordable and supportive housing. I am excited to bring experience in these areas to LeSar and to the communities we support.
LDC: Can you give us an idea of what is happening right now in Oregon to address the homelessness and affordable housing crises?
Oregon has recently passed unprecedented legislation to bring more resources to affordable and supportive housing at state, regional, and local levels. Voters passed local (Portland) and regional (Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties) general obligation bonds to fund capital costs for thousands of units of affordable housing, including over 600 units of supportive housing. These projects that the bonds will fund have helped Portland to bring more than 800 supportive housing units online, part of their goal to create 2,000 units by 2028.
At the state level, Oregon is launching a pilot that serves as a learning cohort for project teams working to build supportive housing projects. Early next year, the State (Oregon Housing and Community Services in partnership with the Oregon Health Authority) will start to release funding opportunities that will fund the capital, operating, and services costs of these 10 pilot projects.
I believe that the tri-county region in Oregon will continue to make significant investments in affordable housing and homelessness over the next few years, which may include significant investments in services. I look forward to working with clients and partners across Oregon to advance these efforts in my new role at LeSar.
LDC: In your opinion, what are the next frontiers and evolving innovation opportunities in affordable housing and homelessness systems change?
I think one area we have not addressed in very real ways in homelessness systems work across communities is racial equity. We know that systemic racism and historical trauma have resulted in significant disparities within our systems of care and for those we serve. Many communities collect data that continue to show that such disparities persist, particularly in access to care and housing resources. There is a great deal of opportunity to deliver more equitable solutions that consider access to resources as well as the resources themselves, such as culturally-specific and culturally-responsive services.
Collaboration across sectors is another area ripe for expansion. As we implement solutions to homelessness that operate at the systems level, we have to be working closely with other service systems that support vulnerable residents – otherwise, we are seriously missing the mark. Promising initiatives such as those for frequent users across sectors and programs where health plans are investing in housing as healthcare, have shown the benefits of partnering: leveraged resources, lower costs, and better outcomes for clients. I hope to be part of launching and scaling these types of collaborations to include additional partners and sectors.
LDC: What do you hope our clients and partners will call you to talk about first?
I love making great ideas a reality through effective implementation. I think that communities are savvier than they were 10 years ago in understanding what needs to be done to address homelessness, and many communities at this point have well-researched plans in place that are full of best-practice recommendations. Many of these community partners know what needs to be done – what they really need is help implementing and doing it. I hope to chat with clients about how we can work together to navigate and overcome the operational and political challenges of implementation. Let’s go!
Nui is based in Portland, Oregon and is reachable at email@example.com.