Mayor Karen Bass Taps Los Angeles’ First Deputy Mayor of Homelessness and Community Health

by Xara Aziz
Kaiser Permanente

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has just tapped the first deputy mayor of homelessness and community health for the City of Los Angeles.

Etsemaye Agonafer joins the new role after serving as an assistant professor in the Department of Health System Science at the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine in Pasadena.

In her new role, Agonafer will spearhead efforts to enhance social, health, and behavioral services for members of the Los Angeles community most at risk of experiencing homelessness. She will also build a team and lead initiatives to improve housing and health outcomes.”

“We must continue to address this homelessness crisis with urgency and comprehensive strategies that work,” Bass said in a statement. “We know that health, both physical and behavioral, is a vital part of bringing stability to unhoused Angelenos and Dr. Agonafer’s diverse experience and deep understanding of health care and homelessness in Southern California will be a crucial step forward in addressing the homelessness crisis and supporting those with health challenges.”

Agonafer’s career in government began last year when she served as a community health advisor at Karen Bass’ office. During her tenure there, she advocated for initiatives like the Bass’ Inside Safe, a pilot program offering support and intervention for substance-use disorders among residents of the city’s interim housing sites.

The public health professional holds over 10 years of experience in the health field and has a multifaceted career as a physician, educator, and community researcher, which fuels her passion for advancing health equity and justice for the underserved.

Prior to her work with Bass’ office, she worked as a White House Fellow in the Biden Administration placed in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She has also offered clinical care to individuals transitioning in and out of one of the largest jails in the country, specifically at the Inmate Reception Center within the Los Angeles County Twin Towers Correctional Facility.

Agonafer holds a master of science degree in health policy and management from UCLA and completed her internal medicine residency and chief residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  She was awarded a B.S. in biochemistry from USC and a master of public health and M.D. from the UCLA/Charles R. Drew University PRIME-LA dual-degree program.

“Housing and health care are essential to preventing and solving homelessness. This is why we are thrilled to have Dr. Agonafer’s expertise and leadership as we work together to bring an even greater focus to the mayor’s mission to connect unhoused Angelenos with coordinated supportive care and services that lead to positive health outcomes, stability, and permanent homes,” Chief of Housing and Homelessness Solutions Lourdes Castro Ramirez said in a statement.

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