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Our Staff and Board

Staff Members

Lisa Bates

Chief Executive Officer

Lisa Bates is the CEO of Sacramento Steps Forward, the lead organization for the Sacramento Homeless Continuum of Care.

Prior to her appointment in February 2019, she served six years in deputy director positions for California Department of Housing and Community Development leading housing policy initiatives including adoption of a statewide housing assessment, and overseeing development and deployment of over 15 housing and community development funding programs to communities and affordable housing developers.

Lisa also spent 21 years with Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, including 11 years in senior leadership positions. While working for SHRA she provided strategic direction and program development in housing, and community development throughout the Sacramento Region.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from UC Davis in International Relations and is a graduate of the Sierra Health Leadership program.

Rachel Bereza

Deputy CEO

We are pleased to introduce Rachel Bereza who joins Sacramento Steps Forward as Deputy CEO. Rachel is a multi-lingual nonprofit executive specializing in Workforce Development and Financial Capability with over 15 years of leadership in the nonprofit community. Her experience ranges from farmworker services to vocational training, housing and homelessness issues, program design, and organizational development. Her lifetime grant awards exceed $20M in funding from foundations, corporate, State, Federal, and private entities. She was honored by the California Legislature Assembly for outstanding work in enrolling countless Californians into Covered California in 2014. She is an alumnus of the University of California, Santa Barbara in the fields of Global Studies, Chicano Studies, and Slavic studies, and is a current candidate for a Masters of Science in Applied Psychology from the University of Southern California.

Michael Colton

Finance Director

Michael manages the daily operations of the Finance department at Sacramento Steps Forward. He monitors and analyzes accounting data to produce timely and accurate financial reports, while ensuring that proper accounting methods, policies and principles are followed in accordance with all relevant guidelines. He brings a collaborative focus to our team, thanks to his multi-disciplinary expertise and holistic approach to organizational finance.

Most recently, Michael was the Finance Director/Assistant City Manager for a nearby city, overseeing all governmental functions, and spent two months as Interim City Manager. He personally managed the finance and administration personnel, while working closely with supervisory staff in all departments to ensure effective delivery of city services to the public. Michael’s previous experience includes three years spent at a Sacramento public accounting firm, where he performed accounting and audit services for a number of non-profits and government agencies.

Michael graduated from California State University, Sacramento with his Bachelor’s in Business Administration-Accountancy, adding a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in 2019.  He maintains licensure as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and as a Realtor®. Michael enjoys spending time with his family, recreational sports, photography, and the occasional home renovation project.

Michele Watts

Chief Planning Officer

Michele Watts is the Chief Programs Officer for Sacramento Steps Forward. She has been with the organization since its founding in 2011.

Ya-yin Isle

Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer

As the Officer of Strategic Initiatives, Ya-yin is responsible for developing, communicating, executing and sustaining SSF’s high priority state and locally funded initiatives, overseeing system performance, and assisting with stakeholder relations.

Ya-yin brings an extensive background working with local agencies, housing initiatives, project management and stakeholder relations.  She has lived and worked in the Sacramento region for over 20 years in both the public and private sectors.

Rolf Davidson

Program Director

As Program Director at Sacramento Steps Forward, Rolf provides operational leadership and oversees SSF’s grants and contracts. His responsibilities also include oversight of the HMIS Database department. 

Prior to joining our team, he served as Chief Operating Officer at California YMCA Youth & Government and the Executive Director for California Chapter 1 of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Rolf brings nearly 20 years of experience in non-profit capacity building, strategic planning, and process improvement.

Rolf is a Sacramento native and a graduate of the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s Leadership Sacramento Class of 2015. In his off-time, he enjoys spending time with his family and is active in scouting with his son.

Peter Bell

Planning Director

Peter Bell has been working with young people experiencing homelessness in Sacramento since 2010. Most recently, he has worked as a program and policy advisor, trainer, and data manager for Wind Youth Services. In 2019, Peter presented at the National Human Services Data Consortium on his participation in the Rapid Results 100-day Challenge to End Youth Homelessness, where he worked to identify and improve local system gaps in serving homeless youth. Peter has actively participated in many community policy and advocacy committees including the Homeless Youth Task Force, the Coordinated Entry System committee, and the HMIS and Data committee. Peter has also had the honor to serve as a co-chair on the following committees; the Systems Performance Committee, We Help Youth (WHY) Sacramento, and Sacramento County’s System Improvement Plan “S1” committee that provides recommendations and insights on how to reduce maltreatment in the Foster Care system. Peter is also an engaged father and family man for his two children, plays Jazz drum set, and is deeply passionate about helping others.

Greer McVay

Policy & Communications Director

Greer McVay, as the Policy & Communications Director, leads the internal and external communications as well as policy strategy that supports a future where homelessness in Sacramento is rare and brief when, and if, it occurs.

Prior to joining SSF, she served for 12 years as the lead communications architect for the Oakland Housing Authority, the largest provider of affordable housing in the City of Oakland. In that role, Greer developed the strategic communications plan, managed media relations, redesigned the agency’s website, and directed all facets of the communications program for both internal and external program marketing and implementation.

Previous to her work in the public sector, Greer worked in the non-profit and private sectors including Kaiser Permanente, the California Bar Foundation and ChevronTexaco, among others. Greer is an author, blogger, podcaster, and frequent public speaker–with interests in lifestyle, politics, and issues related to healthy work/life balance.

Greer earned a Master’s Degree at the University of St. Thomas (Houston, TX) in Liberal Arts and a Bachelor’s Degree at San Francisco State University in Speech Communications.

Trent Simmons

Data and Analytics Manager

Trent has used data analytics to answer research questions in several domains throughout his career, including basic neurobiology, psychology and criminology.  After earning his doctorate at the University of California-Davis, Trent worked with the California Department of Justice Research Center for 3 years where he analyzed law enforcement activities, gang intelligence, controlled substance use and the underground economy.  He looks forward to applying what he has learned to address the homelessness crisis in California.

Trent was raised in upstate New York but moved to Utah for college.  He relocated to California in 2014 to pursue graduate school and has lived around the Sacramento area since.  When he’s “off the clock”, Trent likes to teach college-level statistics to students at Sacramento City College, write statistical programming texts, learn new analytical approaches, play board games with friends, and spend time with his family.

Scott Clark

Portfolio & Team Excellence Lead

Scott Clark joined Sacramento Steps Forward in June 2020. For more than 20 years, Scott has used his policy and data analysis skills to improve community health and welfare. He has worked on a wide range of health issues, including organ transplantation, prescription drug misuse, active transportation, disaster response, suicide prevention, and communicable disease. Scott has experience with project management, regulatory compliance, information design, and advocacy in a variety of nonprofit and healthcare settings. He has a Master of Public Administration supplemented with training in data analytics, epidemiology, psychology, and chemistry. Scott is also a passionate bicycle commuter, runner, puzzle designer, and sidewalk chalk artist.

Deborah Folayan

Contracts and Grants Manager

As Contracts and Grants Manager at Sacramento Steps Forward, Deborah Folayan is responsible for the overall direction and leadership of the Contracts Department and all of the associated grant management, reporting, and research.

Debbie has over 15 years of experience in financial management, budgeting, and financial analysis and a broad background working with national agencies and nonprofits. Prior to joining our team, she managed several multimillion-dollar Global Fund grants in the public health sector which contributed to the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Debbie is a Certified Accountant and a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a Master’s degree in Development Finance. She is married with three children and enjoys spending time with her family, music, and interior decorating. Her passion and fulfillment come from helping people and giving back to the community.

Anthony Robinson

Racial Equity Specialist

An anonymous writer once wrote, “Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate.” It is with this quote in mind that Anthony M. Robinson decided to leave a career in finance to embark on his life’s journey as a teacher. As an educator, he has made it his life’s work to both close the opportunity gap and decrease the educational inequities faced by students from low-wealth communities. Over the course of his career in education, he has worked as middle school Education Specialist, an Adult Education Instructor, the Academics Manager for the Sacramento Job Corps Center and into his most current role as an English Professor for both American River and Folsom Lake Colleges. Professor Robinson holds a B.A in English Literature from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA; an M.A. in Urban Education from Loyola Marymount University and is currently pursuing an Ed.D from the University of thePacific in Educational and Organizational Leadership. In addition to his work in education, he has also worked as a small business consultant, grant writer and financial coach.

Wendy Huynh

HMIS Manager

Wendy Huynh has spent her career working towards ending homeless by encouraging data-driven practices and leveraging data for complex solutions. She has experience in data analytics, training, and collaborating with service providers, governmental agencies, and diverse community groups. She has extensive knowledge of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), is a technical partner, and is a digital learning advocate. Wendy is excited to continue the operation and implementation of HMIS for the Sacramento region.

A native of Southern California, Wendy looks forward to exploring the outdoor activities Northern California has to offer.

Ardy Akhzari

CoC Program Manager

Stacey Fong

Coordinated Access System Operations Manager

Stacey has spent the last 7 years with Sacramento Steps Forward providing compliance and support to homeless housing programs, and more recently, has worked to improve system access to resources. Prior to joining SSF, she worked at Meals on Wheels and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA bringing enrichment activities to an underserved afterschool program in Sacramento. She is dedicated to serving vulnerable populations and is focused on creating policies and programs that are informed by the people and providers navigating the system. She has an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of CA, Santa Cruz, and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of San Francisco. She enjoys hiking, exploring, napping and playing with her two cats.

Board Members

Ashley Brand


Community and Homeless Health System Director, CommonSpirit Health

Ashley Brand is the System Director, Community and Homeless Health for CommonSpirit Health, focusing on the legacy Dignity Health footprint in California. She focuses on the new California homeless health initiative which concentrates on transforming health and our communities by strengthening the continuum of care for those experiencing housing insecurities through innovation, partnership, and lasting impact. Prior to this, Ashley served as the Director of Community and Outreach for Dignity Health’s Greater Sacramento Service Area hospitals. As Director, Ashley was responsible for developing, implementing, managing, reporting, and evaluating community health and community benefit strategies that respond to priority health issues identified through assessments, support hospital business/clinical objectives, and involve collaboration with safety net partners for greater effectiveness and region-wide impact on health improvement.


Ashley has over 12 years of experience developing and implementing programs that target the underserved and uninsured populations in both Northern and Southern California and overseas in East Africa. Prior to Dignity Health, she was responsible for overseeing various programs, grant development and implementation, as well as community relations, with a focus on public and nonprofit safety net agencies. Ashley developed the California Endowment-funded Community Health Navigator Program under their state-wide Building Healthy Communities Initiative; she implemented and managed the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in Auburn, CA and in Long Beach, CA; and provided direct case management services for the Skid Row Families Demonstration Project which removed families from Skid Row in Los Angeles and placed them into housing under the Housing First model. Ashley currently serves on the Sacramento Covered and CARES Foundation Board of Directors.

Cassandra H.B. Jennings

Vice Chair

President & CEO, Greater Sacramento Urban League

Cassandra H. B. Jennings is the newly appointed President & CEO of the Greater Sacramento Urban League to promote economic empowerment through education, job readiness, training and placement programs and advocacy for underserved individuals and families. She most recently served as Senior Advisor to Mayor Kevin Johnson, City of Sacramento on key policy initiatives such as arts, homelessness, housing, volunteerism, public safety, health and community issues. Cassandra spent six years as the Assistant City Manager for the City of Sacramento and over 20 years with Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, including six years as Deputy Executive Director. She has provided great leadership in housing, community and economic development throughout the Sacramento Region.

Cassandra currently serves on the boards of Sacramento Region Community Foundation, Golden 1 Credit Union, Norwood Avenue Housing Corporation, Shasta Housing Corporation, The Sacramento Judicial Library and Learning Center Foundation, and Sacramento Steps Forward. She is also an active member of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church and President of the Sacramento Chapter of The Links, Inc.

Cassandra has been recognized as: 2005 Women Who Mean Business, 2008 Mother of the Year by the Saint John’s Shelter Program, 2009 Black Expo Women of Inspiration, 2010 Zeta Phi Beta Woman of the Year, The Repairer of Breach Award, 2015 Asian Resources Community Service Award and 2016 California Legislative Black Caucus Black History Month Honoree.

Cassandra received a Masters in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco and Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park. She and her husband, Rick, have been married thirty eight years and enjoy spending time with their adult children and their spouses and three beautiful granddaughters.

Alissa Ko


Director of Strategic Giving and Community Engagement

Alissa Ko is the Director of Strategic Giving and Community Engagement at Health Net, a subsidiary of Centene Corporation. At Health Net, she oversees community engagement, public affairs, and corporate giving for the company. She works with local community based organizations, local elected officials, and stakeholders to transform the health of the community, one person at a time.

Prior to Health Net, she served as Vice President of Policy, Government Relations & Advocacy for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, leading a team to advance the organization’s political and electoral strategy, policy, brand awareness, and community engagement statewide. Ko also served as the Senior Associate Director at the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Office of Public Affairs, where she worked with attorneys general, state legislators and the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. During her tenure, Ko built a program that engaged state legislators from all 50 states to advance President Obama’s domestic policies, on issues such as paid sick days, minimum wage, and the “second chance” initiative for former inmates.

She has a career that spans two decades encompassing high-level national community organizing, organizational change, fundraising, coalition building, and successful legislative and issue campaigns. Ko has been recognized as a Rising Star by Campaigns and Elections and has been included on 40 under 40 lists by the American Association of Political Consultants and the National Association of Asian Pacifics in Politics and Public Affairs. She previously served on the board of National Women’s Political Caucus- Capitol Caucus, Organizing Corps, and California Young Democrats. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from University of California, Los Angeles.

Pamela Maxwell


Community Development Manager for Government Relations & Community Development, U.S. Bank

Pamela Maxwell joined U.S. Bank in July of 2010 and currently works as the Community Development Manager for Government Relations & Community Development at U.S. Bank. Ms. Maxwell is responsible for the development, coordination and management of community relations and development activities within the Sacramento area, Northern California and Utah. She collaborates with community groups focusing on affordable housing, small business development, capacity building and financial education. The primary focus of her work is serving community needs within low-to-moderate income neighborhoods and meeting corporate CRA objectives. In addition, she manages the corporate giving budget for Sacramento and Northern California.

Pam has been working in the banking industry for over 25 years. She previously worked for Wells Fargo in Retail Banking for 19 years. She is a board member of Junior Achievement of Sacramento, Hands4Hope, Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce, Sacramento Steps Forward, committee member of Sacramento Self Help Housing, and is on the Lighthouse committee for the Women’s Fund El Dorado. She resides in Shingle Springs with her husband and has two daughters.

Erin Johansen

Continuum of Care Representative

Executive Director, Hope Cooperative

Erin became the CEO & Executive Director of Hope Cooperative in 2016 after serving as the agency’s first Development Director for a period of three years. Prior to leading Hope Cooperative, Erin spent over 25 years in the food business as a sales and marketing professional. In 2008, she co-founded and served as Executive Director for a non-profit substance abuse treatment program for teens in Placer County. After successfully merging that program into a larger non-profit, Erin found her niche in the non -profit world. Serving as the first Development Director for Hope Cooperative was an incredibly rewarding and energizing experience. She looks forward to building the resources to offer expanded services to enhance the lives of the people we serve. Erin holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling from San Jose State University and Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Sociology from San Diego State University.

Matthew Keasling


Attorney - Taylor & Wiley

Matthew Keasling is an attorney at the law firm of Taylor & Wiley. His practice focuses on land use, environmental and regulatory matters, he specializes in securing and defending discretionary entitlements for development projects located throughout the Sacramento Region and Northern California. In his professional capacity, Mr. Keasling successfully represented, pro bono, the Sacramento Area Emergency Housing Center and River City Food Bank in the expansion and relocation of their family shelter and food distribution facilities, respectively.

Mr. Keasling currently serves on the City of West Sacramento’s Economic Development and Housing Commission and on the Board of Directors at Sacramento Steps Forward. He formerly served on the Board of Directors of Next Move, including two terms as board president, served on the YLG executive committee of the Urban Land Institute, Sacramento Chapter, and participated in the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program.

Matt earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara. A Sacramento native, Matt now lives in Southport with his wife, Leslie, and their young son.

Michelle Odell


Director, Public Affairs, Kaiser Permanente

Michelle Odell is the Director of Public Affairs for Kaiser Permanente. Her responsibilities include overseeing all aspects of Public Affairs including community relations, government relations; community health and community benefit planning; and internal and external communications, including media relations

Prior to joining Kaiser Permanente in 2008, Odell spent nine years at The Sacramento Bee, serving as Public Affairs Manager where she oversaw public affairs and corporate communications initiatives, including branding, community outreach, media relations, and charitable contributions. Prior to The Sacramento Bee, she spent eight years as Associate Vice President of Investments at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

Odell currently serves as Chair for Sacramento Covered, and as Director on the boards of the local PBS affiliate KVIE, and the Los Rios Foundation. She is a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum and a member of the City of Sacramento Gang Prevention/Intervention Task Force.

She previously served on the Board of Directors of WEAVE, Elk Grove Economic Development Corporation, The Sacramento Ballet, The Sacramento Public Library Foundation, Sacramento Children’s Receiving Home, The Sacramento Theatre Company and Stanford Home for Children.

Odell holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon. She live in Sacramento with her husband Kevin and their three daughters.

David Husid


Director of Community Development - Cottage Housing Inc.

David Husid is Director of Community Development for Cottage Housing, Inc., a non-profit that develops healing communities that are solution-focused, participant-driven and strength-based, where homeless people help themselves – and each other – through their transition from the streets to self-sustainability.

Husid, who was adopted at birth, was raised in a middle class neighborhood south of San Francisco. Growing up, he was told that he was the “chosen one” and had a great childhood with great parents.

However, alcohol and drugs became a problem early in life, leading to repeated cycles of homelessness. A conviction for computer-fraud led him to state prison. At the time, he thought this was the end, his life was over.
It was not. Through a journey of recovery and with the help of great counselors and mentors, Husid found his strength and regained hope. He got his life back on track.

Nearly twenty years later, Husid is a respected leader in the addiction and recovery fields and is a non-profit executive responsible the operation of two permanent supportive housing programs serving approximately 150 adults and 175 children who have previously experienced homelessness.

As someone with lived experience of homelessness, addiction, and incarceration, Husid has become an advocate for those he serves and uses his story to speak for those who have been silenced by their situation. Recognizing his work as an advocate, Husid was honored by the Sacramento Housing Alliance in 2016 with their Homeless Justice Award.

Husid is a graduate of the Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Leadership Program and Sierra Health Foundation Leadership Program. He has served on the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness Board of Directors and the Sacramento Homeless Continuum of Care Advisory Board.

Husid is Internationally Certified Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor and California Board Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor. He holds Associates Degrees in Human Services and Chemical Dependency.

A. Jonathan Porteus, Ph.D.


Chief Executive Officer, Wellspace Health

A Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Addictionologist, Dr. Porteus has extensive experience in health and behavioral health integration, evidence-based practice and clinical research and evaluation. He also has extensive experience in program development, including outpatient, residential, and systems-level interventions (e.g. creation of trauma- informed initial assessment for NY State Office of Mental Health
psychiatric facilities). His clinical practice includes addiction and compulsive behavior, trauma practice, integrated behavioral health, primary care, and behavioral health treatment across all levels care.

As a trainer, Dr. Porteus has conducted training in Motivational Interviewing, behavioral interventions around compulsive behavior, PTSD, complex trauma, and co-occurring disorders treatment and built the Outpatient Drug Treatment system for the Republic of Vietnam.

Dr. Porteus brings unique perspectives to the understanding of addiction, health care, supply and demand reduction, and our current opioid epidemic. He began his work with WellSpace Health as Clinical Director in 2002. He has been Chief Executive Officer since 1/1/11 and has received accolades for his systems integration work bringing a ‘blanket of care’ comprised of a network of Federally Qualified Community Health Centers to a region with a historically tattered ‘safety net.’ In his tenure as CEO, Dr. Porteus has overseen a ten-fold expansion of the patient population (5,000-70,000 persons served in the FQHC CHCs) across multiple regional Health Centers.

Ashleigh Martinez


Project Management Analyst, Clutch

Ashleigh worked in the non-profit industry providing quality social and emotional (SEL) and leadership training for youth in grades 7th – 12th before joining the fantastic team at Clutch – a client-centric certified women-owned small business focusing on connecting organizations to the resources they dream about! Ashleigh has experience in program development, event management, volunteer recruitment & training, curriculum & team building, project management, leadership & SEL training, and mental health education. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento, in 2022 with a BA in Communications and a Minor in LGBTQ Studies. She is pursuing her Masters at Smith College in Northampton, MA studying Clinical Social Work. Ashleigh is part of the School Services team at CommuniCare Health Centers, where she provides behavioral health services for youth in Yolo County. She is passionate about advocacy, mental health, social justice, and working alongside and empowering BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and underserved communities.