Stories and Statistics: Understanding Homelessness in Our Parks and Cities

This panel discussion explores the nationwide crisis of homelessness. Every city struggles with generating effective solutions to the problem of homelessness, and it's not easy. However, there have been successes, driven by policies, programs, and designs. Often, the stories around this topic are based on impressions, not statistics. This session sheds light on available statistics and share firsthand stories from parks professionals of small, medium and large U.S. cities. The panel includes a definition of homelessness, summary of issues and interactive map. Park and recreation leadership representing Seattle, Washington; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Burlington, Vermont, describe how homelessness has affected parks uniquely in their city. They share success stories and struggles.

Jesús Aguirre

Superintendent, Seattle Parks and Recreation

Jesús Aguirre has served as the Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation since June 2015. Aguirre began his career as a middle school science teacher in Los Angeles in the 1990s and most recently, served as the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia. Prior to that role, Aguirre served as the director of the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation. Aguirre is a proud father of three children attending public schools. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from the WP Carey School of Business at the Arizona State University.

Jesse Bridges

Director and Harbormaster, City of Burlington- Parks, Recreation & Waterfront

Jesse was first appointed by Mayor Miro Weinberger in October of 2012. As the Director of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront, Bridges oversees all of Burlington's 37 parks, 550+ acres of open space, 3 public beaches, street trees & greenways, community gardens, 3 cemeteries, the Miller Recreation Center, Leddy Ice Arena, Memorial Auditorium, and all recreation programs. He also serves as the City's

Harbormaster overseeing the public marina and harbor activities. Prior to joining the City, Jesse served as the Associate Director of Major Gifts - Athletics and Director of the Victory Club at the University of Vermont Foundation. He served a dual role in the athletic department as an Assistant Director of Athletics overseeing the Victory Club (athletic department annual fund) and ticket operations while also focusing on budget preparation, revenue forecasting and technology. Bridges received his B.A. in History in 2002 and a Masters in Public Administration in 2008, both from the University of Vermont. As a volunteer Jesse has passions in politics and education serving on numerous campaigns throughout his time in VT. A graduate of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce Leadership Champlain program class of 2011, Bridges joined the Board of Directors in 2012 and serves as the Vice Chair.
Burlington has 42,000 Director's, our residents are passionate and opinionated which can be powerful and engaging. It can also be harrowing and nerve racking. Through hundreds of small group, individual and public presentations Jesse has developed a style that incorporates tenants of active listening, emotional intelligence and clear delivery to allow for public input while managing sometimes emotional topics.

Stephen Bentley

Superintendent of Strategic Planning, Communications and Analytics,City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources

Stephen C. Bentley is an Assistant Director in the City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department (PRCR) in Raleigh, North Carolina. In this role he is responsible for overseeing strategic planning, design, communications and technology. Stephen has extensive experience in park master planning, system wide plans and studies, engaging designs and communication strategies. His passion is working with the public/private/nonprofit sectors to create great public places and experiences for everyone to enjoy. Stephen specializes in stakeholder engagement and has worked for parks and recreation agencies at the federal, state, county and now local level of government over his 20 year career.

Stephen has a Bachelors Science (BS) in Recreation and Leisure Services Management from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania and a Masters Science (MS) in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Administration from Michigan State University.

Briana Hensold

Principal, Sasaki

Brie is a principal and urban planner and in Sasaki's Urban Studio. Her work encompasses multiple scales and regions, from to city-wide parks master plans and riverfront master plans to downtown districts. With a passion for understanding and improving cities, Brie brings a focus on integrating people, communities, context, and the human experience to Sasaki's planning and design ideas and projects. She has extensive experience with community engagement processes and an understanding of the complex range of constituencies involved in implementing a successful planning project. Brie has completed multiple parks and recreation master plans, each of which brings together quantitative analysis with a qualitative, systems-based approach that is customized to each place.

Brie holds a Master in Urban Planning with an urban design concentration from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and a Bachelor of Arts in architectural studies from Rice University.

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