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Our Staff

John Mendez – Executive Director

Formerly Bethesda Cares’ Director of Outreach and Special Projects, John is Bethesda Cares’ Executive Director. John has multiple levels of experience in evidence-based programs and policy development, including activities associated with CoC systems, State Interagency Councils, and Federal policy initiatives. John has received multiple awards for his work to end homelessness, including recognition from the highly successful 100,000 HOMES Campaign and U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in Washington DC.  In 2012, John was named recipient of the Dr. Wayne Fenton Memorial Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness for Montgomery County. In recognition of his military service and work to end veterans’ homelessness, John had the distinct honor of being Senator Chris Van Hollen’s guest at President Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address to Congress.

Maria M. G. R. – Operations Director

Maria has 10+ years of accounting, design and general management experience in the nonprofit and news service sectors. Recognized for demonstrating a natural aptitude for managing the overall operations of a leading organizations, as well as for designing impactful websites and overseeing large teams. Maria has a verifiable history of contributing directly to institutional growth and expansion throughout her career. Professional focal points include team collaboration, leadership, accounting, finance, photography, and graphic design. She attended Universidad Nacional de Quilmes in Buenos Aires Argentina, where she received a B.S. in Social Sciences and Communication.

Deborah Taylor, MSW, LCSW-C – Programs Director

Deborah has worked with individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Montgomery County since 2008, with much of her focus on HOC’s federal programs for Supportive Housing and Montgomery County’s Adult Behavioral Health clinic. In 2010 Deborah earned her MSW from Catholic University of America with a Combined Concentration (Clinical and Social Change) Deborah has experience providing program direction, case management, individual, group, and family counseling as well as advocacy and has served on Montgomery County’s Continuum of Care Coordinated Entry System Leadership Committee. Deborah also serves as Board President of a statewide family services agency in Pennsylvania.

Stefani Schaper, MSW – Program Manager, Supportive Housing Services

Stefani has nearly ten years of professional experience providing direct services in the non-profit sector throughout the Greater Washington region. Since graduating with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from James Madison University, Stefani has worked in homeless services, mental health rehabilitation, and domestic violence victim advocacy. More recently, Stefani has completed her graduate work at the Catholic University of America, and received a master’s degree in Social Work this month. Directly prior to starting with Bethesda Cares, Stefani worked with an agency providing service coordination and resource navigation to homeless individuals and families in the D.C. area. In her role, Stefani worked closely with the District of Columbia’s Continuum of Care, including active collaboration with the DC Coordinated Entry Systems as well as serving as a non-profit member of the Interagency Council on Homelessness Youth Committee, coordinating the committee’s Youth Advisory Board.

Lawrence Blake – Meal Program Supervisor

“Blake” is our Lunch Program/Clothing Closet/Shower Coordinator. He is the face of the lunch program and receiver of the food donations; he coordinates meals and oversees our volunteers. Blake also picks and delivers clothing to the closet and supervises a once a week shower program.  To read more about Blake, click here for a profile on his work with us in the New York Times.

Mark Babiak, BSW – Senior Specialist – Critical Time Intervention

Our Critical Time Intervention Specialist, Mark was born and raised in Washington.  He attended Montgomery College and was enrolled in the Mental Health Program there; he subsequently transferred to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and received a B.A. from there in 2014, in Social Work and Psychology.  Having interned with Bethesda Cares for a year during his studies, Mark has joined staff to work closely with our newly-housed clients, ensuring that this enormously positive, but very challenging transition is a smooth one.

Nick Heynen – Veterans Supportive Housing Specialist

Prior to joining Bethesda Cares, Nick’s career has involved work with adolescent offenders, addiction treatment programs, and support for people with Developmental Disabilities. The theme dominating his career is the need and ability to get and keep all people connected to their communities. Nick completed his degree in Family Studies at the University of Maryland. Nick enjoys spending time at the pool, riding his motorcycle, and obstacle course racing. Nick and his family are long-term residents of Montgomery County.

Lydia Yosef, BSW – Critical Time Intervention Specialist

Lydia obtained her Bachelor’s in Social Work from University of Maryland – Baltimore County and she has been active in homeless services with experience in homeless systems in the local area. Before coming to Bethesda Cares, Lydia held a frontline staff role at a Women’s Shelter. She then transitioned into case managing Families and Children in housing programs in DC, before coming back to Montgomery County working as a shelter case manager. In that role, she worked with some of the most vulnerable adults in Montgomery County and helped them attain housing. In her free time, Lydia’s passions include linguistics and Prison Abolition, and she actively works with mutual aid organizations in Southeast DC. Lydia is currently working towards obtaining her Social Work Bachelor License in the state of Maryland.

Lisa Lincoln – Supportive Housing Specialist

Lisa Lincoln brings a variety of human services experiences to Bethesda Cares. Most recently, Lisa founded and coordinated a food pantry for a food insecure population, serving an average of 60 families per week, during the pandemic.  Lisa also served as a health and wellness coordinator for an urban nonprofit. Lisa has a master’s degree in Physical Therapy and brings her experience in direct care to human services.

Carlos Ramirez – Street Outreach Specialist

Carlos has assisted and advocated for many victims of domestic violence in Montgomery County as a Legal Advocate for a local nonprofit domestic violence legal clinic. Carlos also has professional experience from working with private law firms and the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County prior to joining Bethesda Cares. Carlos graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Siomara Bonilla – HIP Service Coordinator

Siomara is a Housing Initiative Program Services Coordinator at Bethesda Cares. A UMD graduate with a Bachelors in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Siomara has been an avid advocate for different populations throughout the community. Siomara began community involvement while in High School through the Gandhi Brigade, a group of students using digital media to advance social justice. Siomara also focused on children and educational issues during early advocacy work activities. In addition, Siomara was an advocate for victims of domestic Violence through the House of Ruth MD throughout Montgomery and Prince George’s County, in addition to work as a Transitioning Youth Coordinator for The Arc of Prince George’s County serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and supporting populations in their desires for more independent life.  

Valentina Caro – Community Relations Specialist

Valentina Caro is a graduate from the University of Florida. She obtained her Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology. For the last three years she has worked in organizations such as the United Nations Department of Communications and International Relations as an intern and NORC at the University of Chicago as a Research Associate. Her work as research associate has given her the skills to implement digital recruitment campaigns and social media content that targets specific populations at risk. She has conducted several formative research projects that involved focus groups, findings, and dissemination of material. Valentina is excited to join the Bethesda Cares team and looks forward to building a strong digital presence and continuing to develop new partnerships for the organization.

Monica Chio-Martinez – CTI Specialist

Monica is a graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Relations from Trinity Washington University located in Washington, DC. Prior to Bethesda Cares, Monica worked as a Housing Case Manager in the DC Area for 5 years.  She has helped clients living on the street with obtaining housing and she assisted with the COVID 19 PEP-V housing emergency program. Monica started her social services journey in June of 2014 working actively with families and pregnant women in the DC area as a family support worker. Since then, Monica has worked in several areas of Social Services ranging from Mental health, substance abuse prevention, HIV/AIDS programs, and with persons experiencing homelessness.

Emily Katseanes – Operations and Data Coordinator

Emily has a BA in journalism from the University of Nevada and a MA in rhetoric and professional communication from New Mexico State University. She has over a decade working with vulnerable populations in higher education and has published research at the intersection of mental health and pop culture. 

August Wei – HIP Service Coordinator

August graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a BS in psychology. August has worked in dementia care at residential nursing homes and as an evaluation writer for psychological practices. More recently, August conducted clinical research at the National Institute of Mental Health with a focus on best practices for suicide prevention across medical settings. In addition to his clinical and research experience, August volunteers as a Crisis Text Line counselor and College Bound mentor for under-resourced high schoolers in the DC area.

Kevin Allen – Street Outreach Specialist

Kevin has been in the human service field in different capacities for over 15 years.  He has worked with vulnerable populations dealing with issues such as substance abuse and homelessness.  He went to school at Southern University, and is returning to Bowie State. Kevin also enjoys volunteering his time to youth sports.   

Paloma Arroyo-LeFebre, MSSW: Strategy and Collaboration Coordinator – Zero for All

Paloma attended The Catholic University of America where she pursued her Bachelor’s in Social Work. Post-grad she worked as a case manager for a local D.C. nonprofit aimed at housing local veterans who experienced homelessness. Paloma later found her passion for policy after working for the U.S. Senate. She decided to pursue her Master’s in Social Work with a focus on policy administration and macro social work at the University of Texas at Austin. Paloma’s capstone project focused on evidence-based practices in decriminalizing homelessness. Paloma returned to the greater D.C. area three years ago and worked in national nonprofit/SuperPac, EMILY’s List, and most recently the National Institute of Health as a training manager and expert. She volunteers her time with an LA-based platform focused on Latina empowerment fittingly called Powerful Latinas Rising. Within her role, she produces web-based webinars, trainings, and a podcast. In her spare time, Paloma loves kayaking and spending time outdoors with her puppy, Azul. 

Rachel Fields – Housing Resources Coordinator

Rachel brings 10 years of experience in the human services field working in Maryland and neighboring jurisdictions in support of underrepresented/vulnerable populations: adolescents/adults with developmental delays/physical disabilities, mental health challenges, sexually abused youth, immigrants, impoverished, homeless populations, etc.  Rachel has also served on the board for Eastern Montgomery Emergency Assistance Network, helping the organization develop their website and visual presence. Rachel is a graduate of the University of Maryland, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in biology.

Katie Meadows – Homeless Street Outreach Program Manager

Katie is a seasoned professional with nearly 15 years of experience serving the community of Montgomery County, MD. For the last 7 years, she’s worked on the streets, building rapport with clients to connect them to essential services. In the first 8 years of her career, Katie focused on Residential and Permanent Supportive Housing, primarily serving individuals struggling with chronic mental illness and substance abuse, many of whom have faced homelessness in their past. In addition to her direct service work, Katie has experience developing comprehensive training programs that meet contract requirements and equip staff with the essential skills to effectively support clients. Her leadership extends beyond casework, having successfully organized team members to develop and execute comprehensive Point-In-Time and Blitz event plans. When she isn’t working, she can be found dancing West Coast Swing, volunteering for a cat rescue,  gardening, taking photos, or working on projects around her home.

Kirk Baltimore, LMSW – Program Manager, Street-to-Home

Kirk Baltimore is the Program Manager for our Street-to-Home Program, a new innovative resource designed to support persons who have a history of street homelessness with evidence-based housing first solutions. Kirk is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Social Work and an LMSW, having received his licensure in 2022. Kirk has worked in homeless response systems for more than five years, with much of that work performed in Montgomery County, MD and as a Supportive Housing Coordinator at Vesta, Inc. In his personal time, Kirk enjoys listening to the Beatles, reading, and playing guitar.  

Naya Jackson, MSW  – HIP Service Coordinator

Naya, a recent graduate from The University of Oklahoma with a Masters in Social Work, brings a wealth of experience to her profession. Throughout her graduate school journey, Naya dedicated her efforts to the private practice sector, offering mental health services to both individuals and families.

Prior to her time at The University of Oklahoma, Naya earned her degree from Howard University and immediately joined Teach for America. There, she assumed the role of Lead Teacher at a school situated in the historic Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Naya’s commitment to education and community development extended further as she actively contributed to the North Tulsa Economic Development Initiative (NTEDi), collaborating with families to enhance their overall quality of life.