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

Rachel Bereza is the Deputy CEO of Sacramento Steps Forward. 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

Chief Financial Officer

Michael, Chief Financial Officer, manages the daily operations of the Finance department at Sacramento Steps Forward. He brings a collaborative focus to our team, thanks to his multi-disciplinary expertise and holistic approach to organizational finance. Prior to SSF, Michael was the Finance Director/Assistant City Manager for a nearby city, overseeing all governmental functions, and spent two months as Interim City Manager. Michael’s previous experience also 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.

Rolf Davidson

Director of Strategic Initiatives

As Director of Strategic Initiatives at Sacramento Steps Forward, Rolf provides operational leadership to the organization and  oversees the implementation of SSFs data systems and new technology.  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 & Strategy 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.

Trent Simmons

HMIS and Data Analytics Director

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

Performance Excellence Director

As the Performance Excellence Director, Scott Clark focuses on continuous improvement of organizational effectiveness and the support and development of high-performance teams. Scott has more than two decades of experience in nonprofits dedicated to the health and welfare of Californians and has worked on a wide range of issues including organ transplantation, prescription drug misuse, active transportation, disaster response, suicide prevention, and communicable disease. He has a Master of Public Administration supplemented with training in data analytics, epidemiology, psychology, and chemistry.

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.

Kim Winters

Community Impact Director

 

Kim Winters is the Community Impact Director at Sacramento Steps Forward. Kim has more than three decades of experience supporting non-profit, public, and private organizations in defining and serving their core missions. She has developed and managed communications campaigns, fundraising initiatives, program implementation, and grassroots outreach to support environmental conservation, social justice, economic equity, and K-12 education. She studied political science and Intercultural studies at Guilford College and received a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Outside of work, she loves exploring the world, being in nature, gardening, cooking, and spending time with her family.

 

Michelle Reedus

Director of CAS Operations

Michelle brings over a decade of experience to Sacramento Steps Forward specializing in assisting individuals navigating challenges such as homelessness, substance use, domestic violence, and mental illness. Prior to joining Sacramento Steps Forward, Michelle served as the Program Manager for the HEART Transitional Housing program in Davis, where she played a pivotal role in facilitating transitions to stable housing for vulnerable populations. While residing in Columbus, Ohio, Michelle effectively managed supportive housing programs, directed initiatives, and provided crucial support services in various settings. Michelle is an advocate for fair and affordable housing, leveraging her expertise to advocate for policies aimed at reducing homelessness and fostering inclusive communities. Michelle earned her undergraduate degree in Social Work from Cleveland State University and her Master’s degree in Social Work from Brandman University. In her free time, Michelle enjoys exercising, spending time with family and friends, traveling and practicing self care through mindful meditation.

Ayanna McGee

Director of System Implementation

Ayanna McGee, the Director of System Implementation with Sacramento Steps Forward, is responsible for driving system-level efforts that enhance and integrate systems of care for people experiencing homelessness. Ayanna is a versatile public health professional who leads with kindness and a deep commitment to health equity. Prior to joining Sacramento Steps Forward, she served as Project Co-Director for the Community Mental Health Equity Project TA Center and the Crisis & Recovery Enhancement TA Center where she coordinated statewide technical assistance initiatives aimed at promoting culturally responsive behavioral health practice. As Grants Coordinator for Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, she was pivotal in expanding food access and family support programs for economically disadvantaged populations across Sacramento County. Her professional journey includes over a decade of experience in program planning and evaluation, project management, grants management, and community engagement across nonprofit and public settings. Ayanna holds an EdD in Health Professions and MHA from A.T. Still University of Health Sciences, an MPH from George Washington University, and a BA in Sociology from UC Santa Barbara.

Board Members

A. Jonathan Porteus, Ph.D.

Chair

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.

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.

Erin Johansen

Treasurer

Former Chief Operating Officer of Hope Cooperative

Prior to leading Hope Cooperative (2016—2023), 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. Erin holds a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling from San Jose State University and Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Sociology from San Diego State University. Erin serves on the Board of Sacramento Steps Forward as well as the MHSA Steering Committee. She is driven to expand housing resources for the most vulnerable and recognizes that the only real end to a person’s state of homelessness is a home.

David Husid

Secretary

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.

Ashley Brand

Member-at-Large

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.

Pamela Maxwell

Member-at-Large

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.

Angela Upshaw

Continuum of Care Representative

Executive Director, Insight Housing

Angela is the chair of the Sacramento CoC and sits on the SSF Board as the CoC Representative. She is the Executive Director for Insight Housing and is a long-time advocate for fair housing in Sacramento.

Rachael Brown

Member-at-Large

Executive Director, Power Inn Alliance

Rachael currently serves as the Executive Director for the Power Inn Alliance, the largest Property & Business Improvement District (PBID) in California, covering an expansive 6.2 square miles and comprising over 1,500 local businesses. As a current fellow in the prestigious Nehemiah Emerging Leaders Program, Rachael brings a dynamic vision and strategic direction to the district. Over her two-year tenure, she has spearheaded an expansive strategy aimed at elevating regional awareness of the district and amplifying the economic contributions of its diverse businesses. Rachael has actively championed the integration of the cannabis industry into the district, fostered a strong sense of community by engaging with an extensive network of partners, and initiated robust collaboration efforts to bolster workforce development for local manufacturers.

 

Throughout her career, Rachael has adeptly cultivated strategic partnerships and leveraged her visionary acumen to fortify business communities and attract investments through innovative economic development strategies. A Sacramento native and an alumna of California State University, Sacramento, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design and a Master of Science in Urban Land Development. With over 17 years of comprehensive experience in commercial development, including seven impactful years at the Elk Grove Economic Development Department and her current influential role at the Power Inn Alliance, Rachael has consistently demonstrated her commitment to driving sustainable growth and prosperity.

 

Renowned for her unwavering drive, boundless energy, and astute problem-solving skills, Rachael is dedicated to elevating the organization’s prominence within the Sacramento region. Collaborating closely with fellow community leaders, she actively seeks partnerships to address critical issues impacting the vitality and prosperity of Sacramento businesses and residents.

Ashleigh Martinez

Member-at-Large

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.

Amber Kemp

Member-at-Large

Vice President, Medi-Cal Regional Lead, Health Net

Amber Kemp, Vice President, Medi-Cal Regional Lead, Health Net, oversees Northern California. In this role, Kemp ensures Health Net has an impactful presence in local communities by leading strategy development and implementation of key Medi-Cal initiatives and collaborating with stakeholders to improve the health and well-being of Medi-Cal members.

 

Kemp has more than a decade of leadership experience in developing and operationalizing Medicaid and Covered California policy. Her most recent leadership roles included serving as Vice President, State Medicaid Policy, for the California Association of Health Plans; Vice President, Health Care Coverage, with the California Hospital Association; and roles with the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) director’s office, and the Board of Equalization under member Betty T. Yee.

 

Kemp serves on the Sacramento County Health Authority Commission and on the board of directors of Sacramento Steps Forward and the Greater Sacramento Urban League. Kemp has a master’s degree in business administration from Mills College in Oakland.

Brian Heller de Leon

Member-at-Large

Community Health Lead, Kaiser Permanente, Greater Sacramento

Brian, the Community Health Lead for Kaiser Permanente in Greater Sacramento, manages Kaiser Permanente’s grants program across four counties and leads innovative community-clinical partnerships focused on homelessness prevention and recuperative care, mental health access, safety net support, and healthcare workforce development.  He previously served as the Executive Director of The GreenHouse in North Sacramento and worked as a policy advocate and community organizer on issues related to criminal justice reform, affordable housing, and immigrant rights.  He and his wife Christie have two daughters and have lived in the Tahoe Park community of Sacramento since 2006.

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