A Conversation with Leader’s Breakfast Honoree James Bonar, FAIA

Finding affordable housing offering  a supportive  environment is a daunting task  for those living in recovery from from mental illness. Add the difficulty of finding a steady job and the task seems nearly impossible. James Bonar saw this struggle and spearheaded the creation of Clifford Beers Housing, a a non-profit enterprise that provides housing to those in need of mental health services which foster  their re-engagement with the broader community.

James’s accomplishments extend well beyond Clifford Beers and include the Executive Director of Skid Row Housing Trust that re-instigated housing production  in that community and founding Executive Director of Abode Communities (formerly L A Community Design Center), a nationally recognized producer of affordable family housing.

A scholarship to attend an architectural design conference brought James to Mexico City where he witnessed a thriving community development progam sponsored by the national government. Building packages, consisting of steel frames and corrugated roofs were given to rural villagers, who adding local materials, produced the  schools, that ultimately brought literacy to every village in the nation. This passion sparked James’s dedication to supporting an affordable option for Southern California citizens, especially settings  where people with mental health needs could receive proper  care. Clifford Beers Housing works much like a traditional apartment, that is the housing is overseen by a landlord. Tenants are required to pay rent, take care of their home and respect their neighbors. But added to the services available in supportive housing are Tenant Services Coordinators who assist tenants remain housed by providing appropriate access to other needed services, like medication management, money management and employment retention skills. The special needs are  funded in part by the Community Care Facilities Act wherein the State pays for mental health services to the indigent James believes that there is a simple thought behind Clifford Beers Housing, one that should be widely adopted and is often overlooked in an environment of high priced design, the idea that good architecture can be appreciated  by anyone  and should be enjoyed by everyone.

Look out for more background on Clifford Beers and James Bonar as we get closer to Leader’s Breakfast. Click here to learn more about the event or to purchase tickets.

Jaclyn Giuliano, IIDA
Herman Miller

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