Peggy Edwards, UHHP Executive Director
Peggy Edwards has been Executive Director of UHHP for 9 of the 10 years since UHHP’s founding. She has also served as Executive Director of the Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership. Peggy is an experienced consultant in areas of strategic planning, organization development, community and employee engagement, board training, and leadership development. She has designed and led numerous organizational planning and development projects and training programs for clients and stakeholders including public- private collaborations, community, executive teams, cross-functional work groups, and elected boards. Peggy holds a Masters degree in Public Administration.
Jen Tougas, Director of Training and Education
Jen Tougas has been on the staff of Homeless Health Care Los Angeles (HHCLA) for 2 years and currently serves as the Director of Training and Education. Prior to her current position, she worked with injection drug users and individuals experiencing homelessness at HHCLA's Center for Harm Reduction in Skid Row. Jen has experience training injection drug users on overdose prevention, health education and disease prevention. As an HHCLA trainer, Jen has instructed organizations on various topics, such as Motivational Interviewing, Harm Reduction, Behavioral Health, and more. Jen is a graduate of California State University Northridge, Master of Social Work Program where she focused on social justice and advocacy.
Jason Samoza, ACA/Training and Education Coordinator
Jason Samoza is the lead coordinator for HHCLA’s Training and Education Department. He is experienced in program development and system implementation – specifically developing policy and procedures, care coordination and training staff on the Affordable Care Act and Medical Outreach and Enrollment. Additionally, Jason coordinates with homeless shelters, transitional programs, street outreach programs, city and government agencies, and other community based organizations to improve staff skills in addressing the health needs of homeless or formerly homeless clients. Jason earned his B.S in Molecular Cell Biology and Physiology and a minor in Chemistry from California State University Long Beach. Afterwards, he earned his Master of Health Care Administration from the University of La Verne in 2016.
Doug Bond is the Chief Operating Officer, California for Amity Foundation. He oversees five In-Prison Substance Abuse Services projects at various California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation prisons. He also oversees two Teaching and Therapeutic Communities including Amistad de Los Angeles and Vista Ranch, a facility in San Diego County. Since 2008, he has become a critical member of the reentry services movement in Los Angeles County, which is the most common county of parole in California. Mr. Bond has been instrumental in expanding the California services for Amity to include employment services and permanent supportive housing development.
Mellie E. Briggs
Mellie Briggs brings many decades of experience working in the Department of Corrections for the State of California. She was the Associate Warden at North Kern State Prison and Assistant Superintendent of Education for the Office of Correctional Education, Education and Inmate Programs Unit in Sacramento, California. Prior to this she was an Adult Education Teacher for the Corona-Norco Unified School District. Ms. Briggs has a master’s degree in Counseling and Guidance from Loma Linda University. She also has graduate credentials from the Graduate Program for Professional Administrative Services from California State University, San Bernardino and from the Graduate Program in Education Administration & Leadership Administrative Services Program from Loma Linda University.
Leslie Clarke, Ph.D. is a sociologist by training, with a focus on the distribution of health care to the poor and underserved for most of her career. She was a professor of Health Policy and Epidemiology at the University of Florida for nearly 15 years. In addition, she designed, directed and evaluated health and human service programs, directing more than $6 million dollars of research and program evaluation. Since moving to California, Leslie has led Performance Dynamics, a consulting firm focused on organizational performance and leadership training, was Senior Associate with Harder + Company Community Research, and served UHHP as Executive Director.
Elena is an independent consultant for community-based organizations in the Los Angeles area. For the past 10 years she has worked in the field of domestic violence and homeless services, assisting organizations with program development, grant writing, non-profit management and contracts administration. Elena earned her Masters degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Emperor’s College in Santa Monica, California. Prior to receiving her Master’s Degree, she completed a Bachelors Degree from San Francisco State University in Women’s Studies.
Bikbaye Inejnema is a prevention specialist for Avalon Carver Community Center, a cultural activist, teacher, spiritual counselor, traditional healer, public speaker, writer and spoken word and rap artist. He was the eldest generation overseer of the Earth Center, a nonprofit African-centered organization in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Bikbaye received a B.A. of Sociology and acquired over ten years experience in the fields of youth counseling, mental health and social work. A founder of The Rising Firefly and Sunnyside Magazines, Bikbaye has written and published more than 500 articles, poems and essays. Bikbaye is a dynamic speaker and veteran of public presentations both nationally and internationally.
Gina Jones, LCSW has worked at Los Angeles Christian Health Centers since July 2006 in various roles, including direct frontline service in case management and psychotherapy. Ms. Jones has experience working with the homeless and disabled and is active in macro social work practice as well. She has engaged in partnerships with both public and private agencies in the Los Angeles area to improve the systems of homeless service delivery and increase access for LACHC’s patients to resources. She is passionate about building relationships with marginalized people and bringing about social justice.
Veronica joined Special Service for Groups in 2003 and is currently Division Director of the Homeless Outreach Program/Integrated Care System Division (SSG/HOPICS) where she oversees more than seven million dollars in annual funding for mental health, substance abuse, reentry, homeless and housing and trauma-focused services. Veronica is Chair of the SPA 6 Homeless Coalition and has played an intricate role in the development of the emerging new LA Continuum homeless systems of care as Co-Team Lead for SPA6's Coordinated Entry System pilot. Under her leadership, HOPICS has permanently housed more than 900 homeless families in the last five years.
Susan Lux is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twenty years of experience. Ms. Lux graduated from UCLA and began her career working with military veterans at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. She has worked with US VETS to develop permanent housing, programs and supportive services for homeless veterans throughout the U.S. In 2007 she became the Clinical Director for the Weingart Center Association in Skid Row where she developed a mental health and substance abuse treatment program. Ms. Lux has worked with a number of client populations including pregnant and parenting teenagers, high risk families, the chronically mentally ill, chronically homeless and homeless veterans.
Araceli joined the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) February of 2007 as a case manager. When DWC opened the San Pedro street home in 2010, she oversaw Day Center case management, a program which serves over 1,000 women a year. She also led the metrics task force, a tool to measure a woman’s level of stability. February of 2014 she was promoted to Associate Director of Day Center Programs, where she oversaw operations of the Day Center. In October of 2015 she was promoted to Director of Permanent Supportive Housing and now oversees operations of DWC’s 119 on site housing units.
Amber Roth MSW, MS has been employed with Homeless Health Care Los Angeles (HHCLA) for the past four years. She began her tenure with HHCLA as the Program Director for the Housing for Health program and quickly promoted to Director of Operations and Programs. Prior to joining HHCLA, she served over 9 years at Pacific Clinics where she began her career as a mental health worker. Ms. Roth earned her M.S in Criminal Justice at California State University Long Beach and her MSW at California State University Northridge. Ms. Roth also is a 2014 graduate of the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management ‘s Johnson & Johnson/UCLA Healthcare Executive Program.
Alan K. Richards
Alan Richards has held various positions for Amity Foundation’s Teaching and Therapeutic Community at Amistad de Los Angeles, including Mentor Coordinator. He developed and implemented Amity’s “Coaching 4 Change” mentoring project, funded through the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Community Transition Unit. Alan is currently the Post-Release Program Coordinator for the Jail Inreach 2.0 Project, which focuses on utilizing a housing first model to target and house vulnerable people. The program successfully concluded in 2016 and will continue through Los Angeles County’s Homeless Initiative.
Leepi Shimkhada works for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services in Health Services Administration, in the Housing for Health program. Over the last 15 years Leepi has had various roles in the homeless services community: community organizer, case manager in the San Gabriel Valley and in Skid Row, advocate for systems change, and co-author of public policy. She has extensive experience in funding and creating permanent affordable housing with supportive services. Prior to the creation of the Housing for Health program, Leepi oversaw the contract for the Benefits Entitlement Services Team (BEST) in DHS’ Homeless Services Unit.
Dr. Sony Ta
Dr. Sony Ta is the Medical Director for Department of Health Services’ Housing for health program. He is an internist and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Keck Hospital of USC. He received his medical degree from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and has been in practice for 14 years.
Sieglinde von Deffner
Sieglinde von Deffner works at Union Station Homeless Services where she is the SPA 3 CES Regional Coordinator. She has many years of experience in direct work with homeless individuals and families and has a passion for policy and advocacy. She holds a MSW and is working towards getting her license.
Toni has been working in the field of Human Services since 2003. She has worked with the Ready4Work program, a program designed for ex-offenders find jobs after incarceration, as well as at the Union Rescue Mission as an intake coordinator. In addition, she has implemented a 4-week Back to Work program for shelter residents, which turned into a 12-week certificated class. Mrs. Wells received her B.A in Human Services from Columbia College, St. Louis, in 2012. Upon her return to California in 2015, Toni has been working for People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), providing Intensive Case Management Services to the homeless population of Los Angeles County.