Mayor Walsh Appoints Special Advisor on Homelessness

Laila Bernstein will build on City's successes; Scale up plans to end chronic homelessness

BOSTON - Friday, August 5, 2016 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the appointment of Laila Bernstein as the City of Boston's first Advisor to the Mayor for the Initiative to End Chronic Homelessness.  The position, which was first outlined in the City's "Action Plan to End Veteran and Chronic Homelessness in Boston", was created to help lead the City's reform of its homelessness system, and to enhance collaboration with the Mayor and City departments, as well as between private, public and non-profit stakeholders.   

"Laila has proven her capacity to lead the City and our partners through major reforms to the homeless response system, skillfully navigating the perspectives of diverse - and at times competing - stakeholders and bureaucracies," Mayor Walsh said.  "She is absolutely committed to action, and to getting results, and has the vision and expertise that we need to reach our ambitious goals."

Ms. Bernstein has been working on the Initiative from the Department of Neighborhood Development since fall of 2014. During that time, the City of Boston has ended chronic homelessness among veterans, reduced the number of homeless veterans on any given night to the lowest count ever seen in Boston, and is now scaling that work to encompass all chronically homeless people in the City.  

In order to successfully expand the effort, the City will need to bring in new partners, including business leaders, additional state agencies, non-profits, and faith groups. Ms. Bernstein will expand the coalition in these areas in order to develop the necessary resources to meet the City's goals. The City's Department of Neighborhood Development will continue to organize the implementation of the plan, in partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission and the Boston Housing Authority.  

Prior to her work at the Department of Neighborhood Development, Bernstein was the Director of Data and Evaluation for the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness, where she analyzed homelessness policy to inform investments in supportive housing. Her recommendations affected over $200 million in FY2012 and FY2013 state budgets.  She co-authored of Massachusetts' first strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness among veterans, and managed $8 million in contracts with ten regional Networks to End Homelessness across the Commonwealth.

She also served as a project manager at Victory Programs, Inc., where she led a multi-year research project under contract with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that resulted in a comprehensive needs assessment for people living with HIV/AIDS and disabilities.  Also in that role, she co-designed the strategic plan for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of HIV Housing as a member of the national HIV/AIDS Housing Work Group.  Bernstein holds dual Master's degrees in Public Policy and Social Work from the University of Michigan.  She lives in Jamaica Plain.

To mark one year of work on the City's action plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness the City compiled a  one-year report on the plan's accomplishments. To date, Boston has ended chronic homelessness among veterans by housing more than 650 homeless veterans and more than 100 chronically homeless individuals in only six months, and by reforming the housing and service delivery system for homeless individuals.

Other highlights of the work include last week's "housing surge" for chronically homeless seniors, where 16 seniors were connected on the spot to available apartments and services through a new partnership with the Boston Housing Authority and the state's Executive Office of Elder Affairs.

For more information on the City's efforts to end chronic and veteran homelessness, please visit Boston's Way Home on the City's new website, and follow the initiative on Twitter at @BostonsWayHome.

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