A Conversation with Leader's Breakfast Honoree James Bonar FAIA – Part 2

Last time we spoke to James Bonar he described where the inspiration for his dedication to developing affordable housing was sparked. A trip to rural Mexico introduced him to a government sponsored housing project that engaged local communities to construct and sustain their own schools. This form of community development proved to be an effective way to help those in need. Repeated in the U.S., not-for-profit Clifford Beers Housing brings community developed principles to the mental health field. An autobiography written by Clifford Whittingham Beers in 1908 shared his experience in a psychiatric ward. In this account Beers documented his poor treatment and those of the other patients, but he also demonstrated the possibility of recovery. This expose of abuse and offering of hope on mental health treatment led to the creation of Mental Health America which continues Beer’s vision of promoting treatment for mental illnesses. This group still supports Clifford Beers today.

The non-profit has thus far developed 236 affordable housing units and partners with a handful of local architects, engineers, and designers who support the mission of Clifford Beers. For the past seven years James Bonar has acted as the Executive Director building the relationships with the design professionals to create units that effectively integrate individuals living successfully with mental illness into the community. This system is one that James believes can make quality architecture available to everyone. By cultivating a growing group of design industry professionals who are actively engaged in the Clifford Beer’s message, James is highlighting that affordable housing doesn’t need to be limited to underdeveloped areas. These buildings bring awareness to mental illness which continually builds upon the problem that Clifford Whittingham Beers set out to address and fix. Today the group has relationships with a diverse industry base that covers everything from contractors, to designers, to historical consultants.

James Bonar will be honored at Leader’s Breakfast on September 20th at the L.A. Hotel Downtown. Click here to learn more about the event or to purchase tickets.

Jaclyn Giuliano, IIDA
Herman Miller

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