Board of Directors
CCEH has a dedicated Board of Directors with fifteen members who passionately work with the organization and advocate for the homeless of Connecticut and their service providers.
Executive Board Members
Catherine Zeiner, President
For the last ten years, Cathy Zeiner has been the Executive Director of Safe Futures (formerly the Women’s Center of Southeastern Connecticut), providing emergency shelter, transitional living, supportive housing, crisis intervention and advocacy, violence prevention education, and other services to nearly 6,000 victims of domestic violence and sexual assault per year in New London County. During that time, Safe Futures has been a member of CCEH and an active participant in the Southeastern CT Partnership to End Homelessness (CoC). She is particularly interested in interagency and cross-sector collaborations among nonprofits, and has been involved in the development of the SE CT Coordinated Access protocol for families, and joint public policy and external messaging initiatives for the CT Association of Nonprofits and the CT Community Providers Association. Cathy has extensive board experience, including the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits, the largest nonprofit trade association in the state, where she is the immediate past President and served as Vice President prior to that. She has served as board President, Vice President and Treasurer, as well as an Executive Consultant to My Sisters’ Place, an organization providing shelter (at that time), transitional living, and supportive housing services to homeless women, their children, and men in Hartford, CT. She is a trustee of the Unemployment Services Trust (UST), a nonprofit unemployment trust serving more than 2,000 nonprofit organizations nationwide. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and has been appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore, Donald Williams, to serve on the legislature’s Family Violence Model Policy Governing Council. In her earlier professional life, Cathy practiced as a certified public accountant, and still maintains both her CPA and CMA certificates. She attended the University of Virginia, holds a bachelor of science in accounting from the University of Denver, and did graduate work in nonprofit management at the New School University in New York. She currently lives in Hebron, CT.
Deborah L. Smith, Vice President
Deborah L. Smith has been an advocate in Connecticut for homeless prevention and affordable housing for many years. After working at Access Community Action Agency as Director of Homelessness Prevention for more than eight years she joined Catholic Charities of Fairfield County as Director of Housing. For more than a decade, Deborah has overseen operations of emergency shelter, permanent supportive housing, transitional living, and several community-based case management programs. She is an active member on several committees of the Opening Doors of Fairfield County Continuum of Care and Supportive Housing Works Board of Directors. Throughout her career in the non-profit sector, she has sought to work collaboratively with all community partners in an effort to end chronic homelessness throughout the state. In her work as a LCSW she provides therapeutic support to vulnerable homeless populations at Yale New Haven Hospital Emergency Department. Deborah holds a Bachelors degree in Social Work from Eastern Connecticut State University, a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Connecticut, and is currently studying to obtain a PhD in Theology from Liberty University.
Catherine MacKinnon, Treasurer
Catherine MacKinnon joined the Mutual Housing Association of Greater Hartford, Inc. as Executive Director in April, 1992. Since then she has assisted the organization in developing 389 units in 10 properties and raising more than $47 million in grants and equity for these affordable housing developments. Ms. MacKinnon holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Urban Studies from Dartmouth College and an M.B.A. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She resides in Enfield where she is a Girl Scout leader for Troop 10786. Cathy is also a bagpiper with the Manchester Police and Fire Pipe Band.
Belinda Arce-Lopez, Secretary
Belinda Arce-Lopez currently serves as the Program Director of the Center for Human Development’s (CHD) Region 5 area, which operates supportive housing programs, homeless day drop in center, community integration programs as well as intensive residential support programs. She has also served as the Co- Chair of Waterbury’s Continuum of Care for the last ten years. Before beginning her work at CHD, she was the Director of the Section 8 Department for the Waterbury Housing Authority for seven years. She has a five year old son Joshua, she’s approaching her 10 year wedding anniversary, and is a proud resident of Waterbury.
Tanya Barrett is the Senior Vice President of 2-1-1 Health and Human Services (HHS), a program of the United Way of Connecticut which helps meet the needs of CT residents by providing information, education, and connection to services. Tanya began working with United Way 2-1-1, providing telephone information and referrals to health and social services programs, in 1998. Over the past 19 years, she has served in various roles within the organization. She currently oversees the 2-1-1 HHS division and specialty units, 211 Housing, Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services and Child Development Infoline. In addition, she Co-Chairs the 211 US Steering Committee; a select group of national 211 leaders that works together with the two national leadership organizations(The Alliance for Information and Referral Services and United Way Worldwide)to advance it’s mission to ensure that 211 is “excellent, everywhere and always.” Prior to her work at 2-1-1 she worked in child protection and in employment services for the mentally ill. She serves on the Board of Klingberg Family Centers and the Connecticut Health Foundation. She holds a Masters Degree in Counseling/Human Resource Development from the University of Bridgeport and a Bachelors degree in Social Work from Western CT State University.
Alison Cunningham, M.Div., CEO, Columbus House, Inc
Columbus House, Inc. opened its doors in 1981 to serve people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless by providing shelter and housing and by fostering their personal growth. Alison Cunningham’s relationship with Columbus House goes back to 1987, when she served as shelter manager for a few years. She came back in 1998 to serve as the Executive Director and has led the organization from providing the simple services of 2 hots and a cot to offering long term solutions that will help end this crisis. Alison has served on the board of the CT Coalition to End Homelessness, Reaching Home Steering Committee, and the CAN/sub-CoC committees in New Haven and Middletown. She continues to serve on myriad task forces and committees, both local and statewide coalitions and is a fierce advocate for people experiencing homelessness.
Alison was raised a Texan, completing her undergraduate work at Austin College in Sherman Texas. She moved to New Haven 1982 and completed her M. Div degree at Yale Divinity School in 1984. For a few years, she owned and managed a small, independent bookstore and carries a love for reading and a passion for locally owned businesses to this day. Alison and her partner live in Hamden. She is a gardener, kayaker, swimmer, reader and enjoys the many and varied cultural activities available in the Greater New Haven area.
Peter DeBiasi has since March 2005 served as the President/CEO of The Access Community Action Agency, the state and federally designated anti-poverty agency in northeast CT. He is also an Adjunct Professor in UConn’s Master of Public Administration Program. Peter began his 40 year career in human services working in homeless shelters and soup kitchens. He has also taught High School in inner-city Boston, directed large-scale annual and capital fundraising campaigns, and provided staff leadership in community-based nonprofits and the statewide CT Council of Family Service Agencies. Under Peter’s leadership over the past 12 years, Access operated a 50-60 bed emergency shelter while strategically focusing on providing access to permanent affordable housing because of the critical role it plays for under-resourced individuals and families moving toward increased economic self-reliance. Additionally, Access is also growing its commitment to a second critical element needed to achieve and sustain economic stability – providing access to, including the creation of, good paying jobs. Peter was appointed as the first nonprofit leader to Co-Chair the Governor’s Cabinet on Nonprofit Health and Human Services, and his is currently the Board Chair of the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance. His formal education includes a Bachelor Degree from Boston College, and a Master Degree from Harvard University.
David R. Fay
David R. Fay took over as President and Chief Executive Officer of The Bushnell in June 2001. He is responsible for the execution of policy, the operation of The Bushnell’s facilities and programs and management of its more than $20 million annual operating activity. From 2014 – 2016, he also assumed the role of CEO of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra when The Bushnell entered into a long-term management agreement with the Symphony. Previously, Fay was President of the Canadian Producing Division of SFX Theatrical Group and Executive Director of the Pantages Theatre in Toronto. Fay also spent 15 years as the President and CEO of Fox Associates in St. Louis, Missouri. Under his leadership, the private partnership grew from a company operating a single theater (Fox Theatre) that was losing money, to a diversified entertainment company with multiple venues in St. Louis (The Fox Theatre and the St. Charles Family Arena) and Chicago (the Briar Street Theatre and The Cadillac Palace Theatre). He also formed Fox Theatricals, which produced shows on and off-Broadway, some of which toured nationally, including Jekyll and Hyde and Death of a Salesman (Tony Award for Best Play, 1999).
Fay has a master’s degree in Theater Arts from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communications from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He lives in Cromwell. Fay is currently on the Board of Corporators of Hartford Hospital.
Lou has been a nonprofit manager since starting his career in the sector in 1993 after completing an MA in Theology. He first worked at the agency in 1998-99 as Director of Administration and left to become Executive Director of a youth program which contracted with the State Department of Children and Families. After nearly a decade and half of leadership there, he returned to ImmaCare to become Executive Director in the fall of 2013. He arrived during a period of intense change in the housing and homelessness field and has been very active helping position ImmaCare for the future. He has been a resident of the City of Hartford for more than twenty years.
Hi! My name is Dionna. Many people know me as Dee. 2012 was my breaking point. I have been through a lot of things in my life but being homeless is one I never thought would happen. My husband lost his job and I was diagnosed with Depression. I was Devastated, scared and worried. I went to the St. Vincent De Paul Shelter and that is where I heard about the Hospitality Center. I wanted to help people that were in my situation but I didn’t know how or where to start. I began to volunteer at the center in 2013. It changed my life! CHD believed in me and they gave me the opportunity to feel like a normal person again. I’m now a CHD employee and I’m so happy to be apart of the agency. After many years, I’m happy to say that I feel like I have a bright future and I’m excited about what life will bring me next.
Lee-Ann Gomes is the Director of Norwich Human Services (NHS) for the City of Norwich where she has been with the agency for 30 years. She supervises case management and the Work Education and Training Program. She is responsible for designing, funding, staffing and operating the winter shelter, Norwich Hospitality Center. She is also the co-founder of the Norwich Community Care Team, a multi-disciplinary team assembled to address the needs of homeless single adults. Lee-Ann holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Connecticut, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and has Master Level Work from the University of Connecticut, School of Social Work. She is a community volunteer in her church and is currently on the Board of Trustees for the Norwich Free Academy, a board member for the CT Housing Coalition, a member of the Norwich Free Academy Foundation, a Dime Bank Trustee and Cooperator, the Director of Three Rivers Community College, and past Board President for the CT Coalition to End Homelessness.
Omar Kouatly is Microsoft’s Director of Premier Developer support services for the Northeast district of the USA. His responsibilities include new business development, customer satisfaction, hiring and managing a high performance consulting and support team. Omar joined Microsoft in 1997 and has held a number of leadership positions within the Microsoft Windows Server and System Center product groups. Prior to joining Microsoft, Omar was a founding member of the Price Waterhouse Insurance Software Division. Omar is active in the community and serves as the Recorder Officer of the St. Jude Council for the Knights of Columbus in Coventry CT. He teaches 2nd grade catechism, is a lector and Eucharistic minister at St. Mary’s church in Coventry. He is the Committee Chair and Wolf den leader for the Mansfield Cub Scouts and an assistant baseball coach for Mansfield Little League.
Shelly Saczynski joined The United Illuminating Company (now UIL Holdings Corp.) in June, 2001 as Director of Economic and Community Development with responsibility for UI’s economic development, community affairs, employee volunteer, foundation and corporate contribution programs. During her previous 22-year career at SNET, Shelly served in a variety of capacities, including sales and marketing, operations, and new product development. Shelly was a member of the AT&T National Accounts organization for two years, and served as SNET’s loaned executive to the Department of Economic and Community Development for three years. As Director of Community Affairs for SNET, Shelly represented SNET in the New Haven community for several years before leaving the company. Shelly currently chairs the board of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC). She is immediate past chair of the board of CT Main Street Center. As a member of the board of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, she chairs the Development and Ambassador Committees and is the board liaison to the Fund for Women and Girls. She is a member of the Fair Haven Community Health Center Advisory Committee, and on the board of Capital Workforce Partners. She is a member of the Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS), the Utility Economic Development Association (UEDA), and the Northeastern Economic Development Association (NEDA). A lifelong resident of Connecticut, Shelly is a 1977 magna cum laude graduate of Connecticut College in New London and currently resides in North Branford.
Carl Schiessl is an accomplished attorney and advocate with rich and diverse experience as legal and compliance counselor to healthcare, insurance, financial services, and manufacturing companies, a former elected state official, a volunteer in public service, and an instructor in legislative process. At the Connecticut Hospital Association, Carl advises hospitals and other healthcare institutions on all legislative and regulatory matters, with special emphasis on patient care regulation, children’s health, and mental health and substance use issues. He has been a principal spokesperson for the hospital industry with state and federal agencies and other oversight entities on an array of healthcare issues. Carl is a chair of the Connecticut Children’s Behavioral Health Plan Implementation Advisory Board. He is a member of the Connecticut Department of Insurance Behavioral Health Working Group and the Department of Public Health Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) Advisory Group. Carl was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives six times, serving as chairman of the Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee, as Deputy Majority Leader, and Vice Chairman of the Public Health Committee. He also worked in the Connecticut State Senate for six years. Carl is presently a member of the adjunct faculty at the University of Connecticut School of Law, teaching legislative process and instructing a legislative clerkship field placement program.
Jeff Walter recently retired as President and CEO of Rushford Center, following a successful 34 year career. He is recognized as a leader in community behavioral health care, nationally and in Connecticut. Mr. Walter serves on the state’s Medicaid Managed Care Council and chairs the CT Behavioral Health Partnership Oversight Council that has legislative jurisdiction over behavioral health services for the state’s Medicaid program. He is currently chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Council for Behavioral Health, the leading trade association and advocacy group for behavioral health with over 2,000 member organizations. Mr. Walter is also a past president of the Connecticut Community Providers Association and the Connecticut Association of Substance Abuse Agencies. Active in numerous community activities, Mr. Walter has served as President of the Rotary Club of Middletown, the Property Owners Association of Lake Hayward, Middlesex Area Interagency Council, and Congregation Adath Israel, and is active in the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. He currently serves as a consultant for Integrated Care Partners, a member organization of Hartford HealthCare Corporation. Jeff lives with his wife, Judy, in Glastonbury. He and Judy have three adult children and three grandsons.
Catherine Zall currently serves as the Executive Director of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, which operates an emergency shelter, a daytime drop-in center, a variety of supportive housing programs and a thrift store called Homeward Bound Treasures. She also serves as Pastor of the First Congregational Church in New London. Before beginning her work in New London, she served in a variety of social service management positions including almost ten years working as the Deputy Commissioner managing New York City’s welfare to work program. Ms. Zall has an undergraduate degree from Brown University, a Masters of Business Administration degree from the Stern School of Business at New York University and a Master of Divinity degree from the Yale Divinity School. She has two grown children and lives in New London.