Governor-elect Bruce Rauner selects Brian Rowland, co-founder of ASHF and Neli Vazquez Rowland, President of ASHF, to serve on Transition Policy Committees related to Veterans and Healthcare and Human Services


Chicago, IL. (November 20, 2014). Neli Vazquez Rowland, President of A Safe Haven Foundation (ASHF) was appointed as a co-chair to the Healthcare and Human Services Committee as part of Governor-elect Rauner’s transition efforts. Brian Rowland, co-founder and CEO of A Safe Haven will serve on the Transition Policy Committee for Veterans.

Mr. Rowland brings his expertise in social business enterprises and his experience in providing a systems-based approach of housing and supportive services for veterans to the Veterans Committee. As a US Army Veteran and CEO of A Safe Haven, LLC he hopes to provide insight and solutions that will help Illinois be the best place for Veterans to live productive satisfying lives and provide the quality of life they deserve. There are now over 85,000 veterans living in the state, and disappointingly, 13% of those Veterans are homeless. Mr. Rowland has led A Safe Haven in the effort to create a housing first, systems approach to successfully help homeless veterans not only transition into permanent housing put to maintain stable housing over the long term. His work to help Veterans and their families includes creating affordable housing, providing job training and placement, and wrap around services that address the factors that put them at-risk for homelessness and/or maintaining housing stability. Last year, over 1,300 veterans, both men and women, received housing and supportive services at ASHF.

Mr. Rowland has a Masters of Science (MS) in Real Estate Law, John Marshall Law School and has made a successful career in finance, social business enterprises, and in the social service/housing sector.

Mr. Rowland’s Professional Affiliations include:

  • Chair Business Opportunities Committee – Governors Task Force on Entrepreneurship, Social Innovation and Enterprise
  • Illinois Advisory Council on Alcoholism and other Drug Dependency – Appointed by Senate President Thomas Cullerton.
  • Board of Directors – Social Enterprise Alliance of Chicago
  • Board of Directors – Westside Institute for Science and Education Jesse Brown VA
  • Board of Directors – Legacy for Learning
  • Board of Directors – Chicago Christian Industrial League
  • Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association (IADDA)
  • Member of CEO Roundtable
  • Association of Halfway House Alcoholism Programs of North America, Inc. (AHHAP)
  • Illinois Association of Drug Court Professionals

Mrs. Vazquez Rowland, appointed to Rauner’s Healthcare and Human Services Committee, brings over 20 years of experience in this realm. As President of ASHF, she has grown the organization to serve over 5,500 homeless individuals each year and to provide a range of housing for the homeless that includes transitional, permanent supportive, affordable, senior and veteran housing. She has led the organization in developing strategic, a systemic approach that integrates evidenced-based programs to intervene at various stages of homelessness to address issues that put individuals at-risk of homelessness and help them transition from homelessness to stable housing and maintain stability for the long term. Since the inception of the organization, Neli has increased the organization’s capacity to provide an array of supportive services that include behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, adult education, workforce development, and youth and young adult programs that lead to self-sufficiency, stability, and overall improved quality of life.

“I am so honored to be selected to serve on this committee and am ready to roll-up my sleeves and get work done, Neli Vazquez Rowland commented. “The issues of healthcare and human services are dire! According to the Social Impact Research Center, over 30% of our neighbors in Illinois are low income or live in poverty. These individuals need help with medical bills, purchasing prescriptions and buying groceries. They are often one paycheck away from becoming homeless.

It is imperative that we create a systems approach that leverages the expertise and resources of current human service program into a new, integrated way that comprehensively address the complex dynamics that lead to poverty and homelessness. The cost of poverty, lack of healthcare, and homelessness are high, on both an individual and societal level. On a societal level, the issues related to poverty create a huge financial burden that are caused by reduced life expectancy, lower workforce productivity, and lowered educational attainment. From a healthcare perspective low-income individuals without healthcare insurance cost the healthcare system more as they are unable to afford preventive medical care until the illness becomes severe or chronic and they end up in an emergency room and consequently require more intensive, long-term treatment and incur higher costs that they cannot cover, increasing the societal financial burden.

The National Coalition for the Homeless points out that “homelessness and healthcare are intimately interwoven.” Individuals who are considered low income often make the choice between seeing a doctor, paying rent or buying groceries. If there isn’t some sort of supportive service or safety net, whether medical, employment, or housing… their fragile situation becomes dire and they find themselves on the streets, and in poor medical health.

At ASHF, we recognize that the only way to meet our mission is to apply a systems approach of integrated, housing and supportive services, along with education and employment support, we can help our neighbors and families overcome homelessness. By implementing preemptive, preventive healthcare and human services we can save tax payer money in the long run, while improving the quality of life for those who are most vulnerable.

It is my mission to see that rates of poverty and homelessness diminish and the best possible way to do that is to address the societal and behavioral healthcare root causes that lead homelessness. It is for that reason that I look forward to serving on this committee. I know that when we come together, as a community, we can provide a systemic solution that is cost-effective and evidenced based to help all our neighbors become self-sufficient, productive community members.”

Neli is a first generation American and grew up in an ‘at risk’ community called ‘Little Village’ a densely populated Latino enclave, known for the high rate of crime due to drugs and gangs. As the first in her family to graduate from college, she made a successful career as a former investment banker before taking up the personal mission to help end poverty and homelessness.

Neli graduated from Loyola University’s School of Business, and the Minority Executive Management program at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Recent awards and recognition includes:

  • Enterprising Women Magazine – “Enterprising Woman of the Year”
  • The White House – “Champion of Change”
  • The Illinois Secretary of State – “Humanitarian of the Year”
  • American Red Cross – “Community Impact Award”
  • Make It Better Magazine – “Most Inspiring Mission”
  • NYC Legal Momentum -“Aiming High – Entrepreneur of the Year”
  • Chicago Magazine -“Chicagoan of the Year”
    Chicago United -“Leader of Color”
  • Chicago Latino Network -“Entrepreneur of the Year”
  • Chicago Association of Realtors -“Good Neighbor Award”
  • National Environmental Hall of Fame -“Social Sustainability Award”
  • AETNA – “Latina Entrepreneur of the Year”
  • National Social Business Enterprise Alliance – “Best Marriage of Money & Mission”
  • Publicity Club of Chicago – Three Time “Silver Trumpet Award”