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Build Healthy Places Network (BHPN) is a national organization working in and collecting stories from rural areas and cities across the country. BHPN works to build healthier communities through local housing & community development partnerships (one resource: The Playbook). As co-hosts of this event BHPN will bring some of those stories to us, providing notable examples of community, healthcare, and housing partnerships which are making a difference.

Additionally, Greater Minnesota Housing  Fund’s (GMHF’s) Housing & Health Equity Initiative is learning more about key challenges faced by rural and other Minnesota communities. Healthcare workforce shortages are a driving challenge and on the top of this list. The development of more affordable workforce housing, to attract and retain employees, is needed and directly benefits a community’s health.

You will learn how healthcare can use its leadership, relationships, and investment to develop shared community priorities – serving as a catalyst in the production of workforce and other housing that builds healthier places.


Jen Lewis-Walden

Special Advisor
Building Healthy Places Network (BHPN)

Jen Lewis-Walden (They/Them/She/Her) is a Special Advisor with BHPN. Jen is also a co-founder of Shift Health Accelerator, a network that aims to simplify access to outcomes-based resources for communities leading efforts to improve health. Jen facilitates the Value of Prevention network of the Blue Shield of California Foundation and previously was a Senior Fellow for data strategies at the Foundation. Jen is a Culture of Health Leader, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Previously, Jen was Special Projects Director and Health Action Manager at the Sonoma County Department of Health Services, leading cross-sector efforts to achieve equity and improve health outcomes and was an Agroforestry and Environmental Education Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador. Jen holds Master’s degrees in Environmental Management and International Relations from Yale University and a BA from Bryn Mawr College.

Ashley Hernandez

Communications and Outreach Manager
Build Healthy Places Network (BHPN)

Ashley Hernandez is the Communications and Outreach Manager for Build Healthy Places Network. She has extensive experience in non-profit work both nationally and globally. Most recently, she worked as Program Associate for International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP), an organization focused on transforming the relationship between the funding world and Indigenous Peoples to one of mutual understanding and benefit.

Before her work with IFIP, she managed the start-up of the Texas affiliate of the Restaurant Opportunity Centers United and assisted with research and policy work for several campaigns around increasing the minimum wage. As a program coordinator for the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, she worked on the revitalization of low-income areas through the development of worker-owned cooperatives. Her international work includes partnering with NGOs Practical Action and Kisumu Informal Settlement Network on the development of an advocacy strategy, which focused on the impact of city planning decisions on the livelihoods of informal market traders.

Ashley graduated from the University College London with a master’s degree in Social Development Practice.

Rebecca Lemmons,

Regional Director of Community Health and Well-Being (Idaho and Oregon),
Saint Alphonsus Health System

St. Alphonsus Health System (Idaho) was the first investor to help launch the LEAP Housing Trust in Idaho to expand affordable housing, maintain lasting affordability, and root local control of assets in rural areas of the state.

Rebecca Lemmons serves as the Regional Director of Community Health and Well-Being across Idaho and Oregon, for Saint Alphonsus Health System. She worked for more than ten years for the State of Idaho in both the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Division of Public Health, and Central District Health Department’s Division of Community and Environmental Health as a Policy Analyst. She also served as the Director of Community Impact at the United Way of Treasure Valley. Rebecca has a strong background leading community assessments, strategic planning, public health policy, and tactics for addressing the social influencers of health. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and English from the College of Idaho, and a Masters in Health Sciences from Boise State University. She serves on the board of Idaho Voices for Children, the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children and the Boise Public Library.

AZ Snyder

Public Health Director Pierce County, WI,
Co-Founder Healthier Together

Healthier Together, a multisector coalition in Pierce and St. Croix Counties, Wisconsin that is co-led by the local Pierce County Public Health Department and the United Way, recently completed a policy scan to advance affordable housing policy and investments intended to expand workforce housing, senior housing, and housing with co-located services across the two counties.

AZ Snyder is the Health Officer and Public Health Director for Pierce County, WI.  She was recently named to the de Beaumont Foundation’s inaugural 40 under 40 in Public Health. She has over a decade of experience in HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and quality improvement for population health. Her career started in international health, and she has worked on major US government and private foundation projects in Africa and Asia. AZ then led a team of epidemiologists in a local health department in the Baltimore, Maryland area before coming home to Wisconsin. AZ has skills in quality improvement, organizational management, data analysis, and community planning. AZ holds a Masters of Science in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Notre Dame.

John RockerJohn Rocker

Director of Lending,
Greater Minnesota Housing Fund

Greater Minnesota Housing Fund financed just over two thousand homes in 2022. 80% of the workforce housing developments were within two miles of a healthcare facility or employment center. John will discuss some models for creating workforce housing projects and catalytic roles that healthcare systems could play in sparking development.

Mr. Rocker is GMHF’s Director of Lending. In this role, John is responsible for CDFI lending production, borrower and developer relationships, and lending team leadership. John also leads technical assistance activities related to deal structuring.  John brings extensive real estate finance, underwriting, and development expertise in affordable housing finance, having previously worked with Minnesota Housing as a multifamily underwriter, and as a developer with Aeon, Fermstad Trust Properties, and Gandolf Group LLC. John has a B.S. in Finance from Miami University.

Co-Hosted By



Colorful banner image featuring the skyline that you might typically see in a small city or town in Greater Minnesota.