THN Board

Meet the THN Board

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Todd Shell, Board Chair

Todd began his career with CORT in 1991 in Dallas and has held various positions including National Brand Manager and National Marketing Manager.  He is currently the National Director – Supportive Housing – Recovery/Treatment Facilities. Todd has received numerous awards and certifications throughout his career, including the prestigious Presidents Sales Excellence Award.  After meeting people in the supportive housing industry, Todd began volunteering at local organizations serving food, collecting can goods for food banks, clothes drives, and in any way he felt he could help. Through his volunteer efforts, he could see the effects of helping people through housing and supportive services. Todd Shell grew up in the small East Texas Town known as Carthage Texas. After graduating High School, he attended Panola Jr College and LSU where he obtained his degree majoring in marketing and management.

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Dr. Ben King
Vice Chair

Dr. Ben King is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Public Health at the University of Texas at Austin and Research Scientist at the University of Texas Dell Medical School Stroke Institute, in the Department of Neurology. He is also the President and Chief Scientific Officer of Methods and Results, a research consulting service.  He has a Master’s in Public Health and Community Health Management and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the UT-Houston School of Public Health. Through M&R, he works with biomedical and healthcare-focused start-up initiatives and community-based non-profits, particularly in housing/homelessness services and mental health programs.  He has served in multiple leadership roles at the American Public Health Association, as a peer reviewer for multiple journals, and as a member of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council’s Research Committee.

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Taylor Cook
Secretary

Taylor Cook is a Design Program Manager at the University of Texas Dell Medical School’s Design Institute for Health. Prior to joining the Medical School, she established the City of Austin’s Service Design Lab and lead a team to develop human-centered approaches to address the problem of homelessness.  Originally from Fort Worth, Taylor has been an Austinite since 2008. She has a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia and a M.A. in Economics and Master of Public Administration from the University of Montana.

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Natalie Hicks
Treasurer

Natalie Hicks (she/her) is a client manager in the private aviation industry for Jet Linx based in Austin, TX, a corporation she has been with since 2019. Prior to her time with Jet Linx, she worked in various capacities at Circuit of the Americas alongside the accounting, sales, and events teams, hosting major events such as Formula 1, MotoGP, and many concerts at the Germania Insurance Amphitheater. Natalie developed a strong interest in contributing assistance to underserved communities in high school in Tulsa, OK when she served as a junior board member for Emergency Infant Services, a local Tulsa organization dedicated to providing basic needs such as diapers, formula, and clothing for expecting and new parents. She has volunteered at a plethora of organizations fighting for equity and access to basic needs in an individual capacity and served on the board of Team Snacks from 2018-2020 as Membership Coordinator. Team Snacks is a bicycling civic organization in Austin, TX dedicated to fitness, friends, and fun for women, non-binary folks, and anyone who identifies within the LGBTQIA+ community. Natalie is new to the Texas Homeless Network board and looks forward to working with a stellar team of people working toward improving the lives of our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

Paul Charles

Paul Charles
Board Member

For more than twenty years, Paul Charles has led NRCDC in the development and  redevelopment of affordable housing and commercial real  estate projects. NRCDC recently created the Community  Loan Center of Greater Houston which provides an  alternative to predatory consumer lending. 

Mr. Charles holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil  Engineering from the Technological Institute (now the  McCormick School of Engineering) at Northwestern  University in Evanston, Illinois. He is also a graduate of the  Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New  Hampshire, with a Master of Business Administration in  General Management. Mr. Charles is a registered, licensed  engineer in the State of California, where he worked as an  engineer and a real estate consultant for a number of years.  He has also held positions with large scale master-plan  developers, as well as other community based organizations. 

Mr. Charles is active in a number of civic, community and professional activities both locally  and nationally. He is a member of the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, where he serves as a  Trustee and director of the Visual Arts Ministry, and has served as president of the Youth  Council and sponsor to a host of youth auxiliaries and teaches Youth Bible Study and Sunday  School. He is also Immediate-Past President of the Houston Chapter of the National Black MBA  Association, a member of Class XVIII of Leadership Houston, a board member of Scenic  Houston, Treasurer for Urban Harvest, the Tuck Alumni Advisory Program, a member of the  Community Advisory Board of Comerica Bank and BluePrint Houston, vice-chair of the  Houston Community College System Bond Oversight Committee, former Treasurer of the CDC  Association of Greater Houston, President of the Texas Association of Community Development  Corporations, Assistant Treasurer of the National Congress for Community Economic  Development (co-chair of the Budget and Finance Committee), a member of the Texas  Department of Insurance’s Economic Development Roundtable, Chairman of the Third Ward  Redevelopment Council, an Inner City Advisor for the Urban Land Institute, the Executive  Committee for the Urban Land Institute Houston District Council. He is also a graduate of the  “Advanced Practitioner Program” through the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations of the  Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He serves as a mentor and chaperone to  the Leaders of Tomorrow (a mentoring program). He has also served as national treasurer of the  National Society of Black Engineers.  

Mr. Charles has received numerous civic awards among them, three times Outstanding Young  Men of America, the Leadership Award from the American Legion and is listed in Who’s Who  Among Executives and Professionals and Who’s Who in Black Houston. 

In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, spending time with family and friends, exploring new food  experiences (restaurants, cooking, etc.), photography, collecting art, professional sports, fixing  an “old” house, nature, and learning. He has visited seven continents.

Melissa Escamilla
Board Member

Melissa A Escamilla has over 19 years of experience in the field of rehabilitation including 13 years in independent living services. Since 2006, Dr. Escamilla has been a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and is currently a licensed chemical dependency counselor intern.  She has worked as a Part time Lecturer in the School of Rehabilitation Counseling and Services at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley since 2009.  Melissa is a legacy student of the University of Texas Pan American now University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.  In 2019, Melissa obtained her doctoral degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.  Her dissertation focused on Veteran Wellness and Reintegration: Factors Contributing to their Success in the Community. Her interest in veteran wellness and community reintegration were initiated through personal and professional experience in the field of rehabilitation. 

Melissa has spent the past 5 years working with veterans experiencing homelessness or veterans at risk of homelessness with comorbid disorders throughout South and Southeast Texas. She is currently the Program Director for the Veteran Supportive Services program at Endeavors.   She currently serves as chair of the Cameron and Willacy County Homeless Coalition, co-chair of the Rio Grande Valley Community Veterans Engagement Board, and Vice-President of the Texas Alliance of Information and Referral Services. 

Melissa was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley.  She enjoys spending time with her family when she is not at work.  She looks forward to representing South Texas on the Texas Homeless Network Board.

Tamara Foster

Tamara Foster
Board Member

Tamara joined the New Hope Housing team in 2003. In her role now as Vice President of Onsite Operations, Tamara is responsible for overall fiscal accountability of 120 million in assets comprised of seven (7) single room occupancy (SRO) supportive housing communities along with a 187 unit family project. She is charged with overall property management, including oversight of personnel (95+), and physical asset management of New Hope’s non-profit residential housing portfolio. Additionally, she ensures operational compliance with all public and private funding obligations. Tamara works closely with architects and project managers in the development of sites under construction to ensure durability, and practical, efficient use. Also under her purview is the development and implementation of New Hope’s Resident Programs providing life-stabilizing services to 826 adults and 187 families.

As part of New Hope’s housing + services program model, Tamara also works diligently within the greater Houston community to foster strong collaborations with the Houston Housing Authority and area social service agencies, such as Star of Hope, SEARCH, Health Care for the Homeless, United Healthcare, Child Protective Services, The Harris Center, and Area 360 (formerly HACS). Through these strong collaborations, vulnerable individuals and families are afforded high quality, affordable housing with intensive case management, and access to badly needed health education and medical services. Many of the individuals served are formerly homeless, aging, and have complex health and social support needs, with cognitive disabilities. 

Tamara is a graduate of the National Apartment Association’s CAPS (Certified Portfolio Supervisor) program, and holds certifications through the National Center for Housing Management in Low Income Tax Credits and Fair Housing. She is a graduate of St. Luke’s Collaborative Leadership Academy (2014) and a graduate of Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builders Emerging Leader program (2011). She has been a proud member of Comerica Bank’s Texas Community Development Advisory Council since 2010 and a sits on the Board of Directors of the Texas Association of Community Development Corporations, Houston Apartment Association and Texas Homeless Network.

Benjamin Jules

Dr. Benjamin Jules
Board Member

Dr. Jules serves as a Parent Liaison in the Office of Special Education Services in Houston Independent School District. Collaborating with school leaders, teachers, staff, and psychologists during the process of addressing parent concerns including members of the RTi, section 504, and the individualized education program (IEP) teams in the district to ensure success for students receiving special education and related services has been gratifying for Dr. Jules. 

Dr. Jules’ passion as an educator has also consisted of working as an elementary and middle school band director and General Equivalency Degree (G.E.D.) instructor in the Adult Education department at Houston Community College.  

Prior to entering the field of education, Dr. Jules worked with homeless youth at Covenant House Texas as a youth counselor in the Boys Rights of Passage Program. Dr. Jules strongly believes the actions of developing meaningful relationships with students, parents, school leaders, and staff to be the key ingredient for obtaining positive outcomes for students. 

Dr. Jules is a native Houstonian. Dr. Jules is married to the love of his live Kimberly Jules who is also an educator at St. Francis Episcopal School. He has a BA in Music Education from Texas Southern University, MEd – Educational Leadership and Ed.D. – Educational Leadership from the University of St. Thomas – Houston, Texas.

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Daniel Kuehn
Board Member

Most recently, Daniel was a Program Director at IBM focused on strategic operations for a large portfolio of software teams across the breadth of the IBM software portfolio. His primary focus was to collaborate with local and distributed design, product management, and engineering leadership to establish an operating model that allows the design thinking framework to expand throughout the worldwide enterprise and help solve real human problems. He is currently working on an approach to help other industries reframe their strategy using design thinking and a user-centered approach to business solutions.

Prior to joining IBM in 2015, Daniel worked as a Producer and Head of Production, Technology, and Operations for Cannes, Clio, and Academy Award-winning digital media and entertainment companies.

Originally from Houston, Daniel made the move to Austin in 2012. He has a B.A. from Tulane University and an M.B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.

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Ben Nakhaima
Board Member

Ben Nakhaima is a Disaster Relief Analyst at HORNE LLP. He has worked to help those whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Harvey in Houston and has worked to deliver aid to Texas cities, counties, and school districts adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. His public-sector background comes from having worked on Capitol Hill in the office of a U.S.Senator where he gained firsthand experience related to political processes. Prior to his work in government affairs, Ben helped to organize public relations for the largest events in Austin, Texas in 2019 and has grown a popular podcast, “Full Disclosure with Ben Nakhaima,” where he meets with some of the most enterprising names in Texas politics to have open and honest conversations about their personal motivations and the life experiences that brought them to where they are today. Born in Ruston, LA, and raised in Las Vegas, NV, Ben attended and studied Political Science at Texas Tech University.
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Nathan Pisik
Board Member

As a Global Strategist with Dell Technologies’ Executive Briefing Program, Nathan travels around the world consulting Fortune 500 business leaders, national governments, and global non-profit organizations on Digital Transformation Strategy.

Nathan’s passion for the study and application of unique solutions for addressing homelessness began in 2014 while he was working in Singapore as an Associate Consultant and Researcher. Throughout his time in Singapore, Nathan worked collaborating with East Asian governments on the development of pragmatic public health and education policy.

Nathan serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas Homeless Network and Farmshare Austin. He is a former Volunteer Firefighter and holds degrees from Texas A&M University in International Business and Chinese Language Studies.

Outside of his work as a Technology Evangelist and Homeless Advocate, Nathan enjoys rock-climbing and bouldering or hiking the Austin Greenbelt with his rescue American Terrier.

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Jo Schaeffer
Board Member

Jo Schaeffer is a professional facilitator, speaker and consultant specializing in leadership and human behavior. Formerly the head of learning and development with Tokyo Electron International, Jo comes to the THN board with nearly 17 years in training, and systems development for corporate, government, and nonprofit organizations. Her wide-ranging clientele includes large organizations such as NASA, Nike, the US Army, Driscolls, the University of California at Davis.  A highly sought-after speaker, Jo has keynoted events with the Association for Talent Development (ATD), TEDx, the U.S. Air Force, the University of Texas at Austin, Cleveland Clinic as well as non-profit events with FrontSteps Homeless Shelter and Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.

Jo earned a B.A. from Southern Virginia University and an M.A. from the University of Utah. She enjoys music, the outdoors and reading.  Jo is mother to five children, including a daughter she had while a sophomore in college and chose to place in an open adoption. As a pregnant teenager with limited resources, Jo was provided housing at a homeless shelter. It’s now her great privilege to get to pay it forward as a board member with THN.

Heather Slay

Heather Slay
Board Member

Heather gained her passion for helping people less fortunate and experiencing homelessness at an early age. From bringing meals from her mother’s restaurant as a small child to adopting a grandmother (previously homeless) from the VA hospital throughout high school, and traveling to remote areas of Mexico during college to provide health care and basic needs to the extremely impoverished. Heather subsequently volunteered at various local organizations providing food, clothes, and in particular, essential items needed for infants and toddlers. After receiving her B.A. from Auburn University in Psychology, Heather worked as a counselor for the Alabama Department of Health, providing counseling to those suffering from mental illness who had previously been homeless or recently released from incarceration. Heather’s experience as a counselor, staying in the home with her patients at least 3 nights a week, greatly intensified her desire to remedy the plight of those less fortunate.

Heather graduated from Southern Methodist University School of Law, Cum Laude, in 2000.  During her second and third year in law school, Heather was in charge of the Dallas Kids Project, wherein volunteer law students taught children in low-income neighborhoods the basics of law and at the conclusion of the year the children had their own mock trial.  Since graduating from law school, Heather’s desire has been to do the most she can to help those less fortunate with the utilization of her law degree.  As a result, Heather was named a Life Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and has been a Member of the Pro Bono College of Law since 2002, committed to providing a minimum of 40 hours of legal advice to the low income per year. She is currently Senior Counsel at the law firm of Mejias Lindsay, PLLC in Houston. Heather also currently serves as a Humble ISD legislative delegate, with a goal to ensure Congress hears the needs and recognizes the rights of our children in the public education school system.

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