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Dr. Carla Smith

Dr. Carla Smith is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Urban Resource Institute, where she is responsible for leading the day-to-day operations of URI, the largest provider of domestic violence shelter services in the U.S., and a leading service provider for homeless families. She joined URI in 2015 as Senior Vice President of Programs, quickly rising to Chief Program Officer and now Deputy CEO during a time of dynamic organizational growth. In her role, she oversees Executive Team members responsible for the Operations, Finance and Programs Divisions of the organization, which includes more than 20 shelters across New York City housing more than 2,200 adults and children each night. She shares responsibility to facilitating the development and execution of trauma-informed programming, impacting over 40,000 individuals annually through direct service, prevention, and intervention programs.


Dr. Smith has been instrumental in developing and expanding URI’s innovative, impactful programs by working to secure funding for each of these initiatives. Two of these include trauma-informed Abusive Partner Intervention Programs (APIP), which are both accountability program for individuals who cause harm — one for individuals mandated to participate by the criminal justice system and one for nonmandated individuals. Both are designed to reduce future incidents of domestic violence and promote engagement in healthy relationships. Dr. Smith was also integral to securing a 5 million dollar grant that allowed for the expansion and redesign of the economic empowerment program, which allowed for the provision of services to homeless families in addition to the URI domestic violence clients. She also continues to partner with leadership and staff to expand and increase awareness about the landmark People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) program, the only NYC program that offers co-living for survivors and pets, including expansion within the URI shelters and technical assistance nationwide to shelters wishing to adopt the program model.


In the sphere of prevention and breaking the cycle of violence, Dr. Smith has helped drive the visibility of URI, the mission and programs, by speaking about the programs such as PALS, at NYC City Council, the Department of Criminal Justice Conferences and through CUNY’s Institute for State and Local Governance Technical Assistance Initiative. Dr. Smith provides valuable commentary on individual and societal impacts of intimate partner violence, notably featured recently in media such as The Telegraph (UK), ABC News, and Bustle. She utilizes her professional background as a platform to passionately speak publicly about domestic violence and to advocate for New York’s underserved and underrepresented populations. Specifically, she has worked in the Bronx with law enforcement leadership to discuss the rise in intimate partner homicides over the years, and developed a collaborative community response to address this issue.


Dr. Smith’s career spans 25 years devoted to social services, during which her personal goal has been to serve New York’s most vulnerable populations. She has worked to improve the lives of domestic violence survivors, homeless individuals and families, individuals with HIV/AIDS, and victims of hate violence and sexual assault.


Dr. Smith completed her Doctorate of Education in Executive Leadership from Saint John Fisher College in 2014, while working full time, electing to focus her dissertation on Examining Shelter Access Barriers for Transgender Identified Survivors of IPV. This work and her commitment to ensuing an open access model of care, enabled her to spearhead URI’s effort to reduce barriers, enhance shelter access and initiate the provision of culturally competent services for members of the LGBTQIA+ community through the development of ongoing staff training and institution of protocol revisions. In 2020, Dr. Smith received an appointment to the Advisory Panel for the Lubin School of Business Transformative Leadership Program at Pace University.

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