Meet The Team

Meet the THN Team

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Eric Samuels, President and CEO

Eric has over seventeen years of experience working with local, state and national organizations on the development of services and housing for persons experiencing homelessness. After college, he moved from Arkansas to Austin to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA member for two years, his second as VISTA Leader at THN in 1998. After working for four years at the Enterprise Foundation, primarily on advocacy efforts for people with disabilities, Eric served as the AmeriCorps Coordinator for the program that became Keep Austin Housed at the then newly opened Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH).

In 2004, Eric moved back to his home state to be near family and took a job as Executive Director for Seven Hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville, AR. Before his departure back to Austin in 2006, the agency was near completion on constructing a new PSH and TH program, and Eric had provided the framework for moving the day center to its current location. From 2006 to 2015, Eric guided the development of the TX Balance of State CoC. In August 2015, Mr. Samuels was named President/CEO of Texas Homeless Network. Mr. Samuels holds a Master of Arts in Sociology from Texas State University and received his Bachelors from the University of Arkansas. Eric and his wife Leslie have two young children Maren and Asa.

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Jen Beardsley
Local Homeless Coalition Specialist

Jen Beardsley is the Local Homeless Coalition (LHC) Specialist at Texas Homeless Network where she works to support and help build collaborative groups working to address homelessness in their communities across the state. She has a background in commercial real estate appraisal, marketing, and cooperative housing advocacy work. Jen is passionate about advancing equality, building more just systems through partnerships, and spending long lazy days at the beach.

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Kraig Blaize-Fiero
CoC Programs Assistant

Kraig started his career with THN as a volunteer before being placed at THN as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in 2012. During his VISTA service, which ran from 2012-2014, he worked with various homeless coalitions around the Central Texas area helping to raise awareness within the communities and coordinate annual Point In Time surveys. Today he is the CoC programs assistant and helps coordinate daily activities for the TX BoS CoC. Kraig is a Texas native and graduated high school in Johnson City, TX and is currently working on attaining his associate degree in Social Work from Austin Community College.

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Sophia Checa
Director of CoC Programs

Sophia is the Director of Continuum of Care Programs at THN. In this role, she is responsible for carrying out the strategic direction set by the Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care Board. Sophia believes that no one should experience homelessness therefore, she believes in the universal right to housing and death to capitalism. She has extensive knowledge of systems change, process improvement, data, housing best practices, system performance measurement, and the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program. Prior to graduate school, Sophia worked as the Intake Coordinator for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP) at Catholic Charities of the East Bay in Oakland, California. This position spurred her passion for housing and ending homelessness. She has a Master’s degree in Public Affairs with a concentration in Nonprofit Studies from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas – Austin and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of California – Berkeley.

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Paula Dewey
ESG Data Specialist

Paula Dewey is the ESG Data Specialist at Texas Homeless Network. She has a background in the media industry where she focused on systems, reporting, and process improvement. She grew up in Virginia but has lived in Texas for most of her life. After working in the corporate world for many years, she realized that she wanted to focus her efforts on work that was more meaningful. She is passionate about working to help bring an end to homelessness and in helping to create a better, more equal society for everyone.
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Quiana Fisher
CoC Performance Coordinator

Quiana Fisher is the CoC Performance Coordinator. She works to evaluate the performance and outcomes of projects funded by the Continuum of Care Program. She is an energetic, politically driven social worker dedicated to improving the lives of those experiencing homelessness in our community. Quiana has worked in homeless services since 2013 and has experience with Permanent Supportive Housing, Rapid Rehousing, and Homelessness Prevention.

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Samantha Foss
Director of Development and Communications

Samantha is the Director of Development & Communications. Along with working on grant proposals, campaigns, and communications, they plan THN’s annual statewide conference. With nearly a decade of social work experience and a Master of Social Work degree from Texas State, Samantha has served through direct service work, statewide policy, and programmatic technical assistance. Their passion lies in lgbtqia+ rights, homelessness advocacy, reproductive justice, immigration reform, prison reform, and youth development. They enjoy spending time with their dog, family, friends, and nature. You will see them thriving the most in life through volunteering and hiking, sometimes simultaneously.

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Brian Goodner
Chief Financial Officer

Brian is THN’s Chief Financial Officer and has been at THN since 2011. Prior to working at THN, Brian worked as Controller for multiple companies and has diverse experience in accounting, auditing, financial reporting and budgeting. During this time, Brian has worked with these companies establishing proper internal controls surrounding accounting and finance activities while working with management to improve any areas of deficiency. This has included doing field audits of service locations to ensure that company processes and procedures were being followed. Brian also worked with management on budgeting, forecasting, preparing financial statements and reviewing monthly and quarterly financial results. Brian has a BS in Accounting from The University of Arizona.

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Kyra Henderson
Data Coordinator

Kyra Henderson is the Data Coordinator for the Texas Balance of State CoC. She is charged with organizing and executing the Annual Point-in-Time Count and Housing Inventory Count along with monitoring System Performance Measures. 

Kyra is originally from Littleton, Colorado and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Colorado State University. After working as a case manager for several years she realized that she wanted to join the fight to end homelessness in a new capacity. She is eager for the opportunity to work in a position where her passion for advocacy and data-informed practice work seamlessly together. 
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Margaret Hill
Governance Specialist

Margaret is the Governance Specialist. Her role involves improving engagement between THN as the lead agency of the TX BoS CoC, and homeless service providers within the CoC, through development of the CoC’s governance structure and processes. She began at THN as an Americorp VISTA, and is excited to continue to work she began during her VISTA year. She received a degree in Design Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and has lived in Austin for 17 years. The increased visibility of homelessness in Austin inspired her to better understand the plight of her less lucky neighbors. Margaret is very active in housing advocacy and homelessness aid efforts in Austin.

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Antonio Kufoy
Database Coordinator

Antonio works as an administrator of the HMIS database. His main duties involve conducting audits for data quality and generating ad-hoc reports. He is also involved in automating processes and creating custom data visualizations. Antonio received his Bachelor’s degree in Biophysics from Duke University and received some post-graduate education from the University of Texas at Austin in Data Visualization.

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Lindsay LaGrange
Training Coordinator

Lindsay is the Training Coordinator at THN. She is charged with training and providing technical support to all HMIS users. She is passionate about serving the marginalized people in her community and grateful for her role in working to end homelessness. Lindsay is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from University of South Alabama.

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Deanne Lock
Accounting and HR Generalist

Deanne is the Accounting and Human Resources Generalist and assists the President/CEO and the Director of Finance and HR with administrative, human resources, and financial operations. Deanne started as a volunteer with THN in 2012 before being hired as the Office Manager in 2013. Deanne holds an MS in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine which explains her calming effect on the office atmosphere. She was born in Corpus Christi, and spent 20 years of her life in the Middle East.

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Victoria Lopez
Data and Policy Analyst

Victoria is the HMIS Program Coordinator at THN. Victoria handles HMIS trainings and also helps with HMIS reporting and technical assistance. She has a Master’s degree in Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Communication (which is just fancy talk for Technical and Business Communication) from Iowa State University and a Bachelor’s degree in English from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

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Mollie Lund
ESG & SSVF Coordinator

Mollie Lund joined THN as the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) and Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) Programs Coordinator in November of 2018. Mollie supports ESG Program Recipients and subrecipients and SSVF Grantees in the Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care. Mollie evaluates outcomes of ESG-funded and SSVF-funded projects and provides technical assistance, education and training to recipients, subrecipients, and grantees to improve ESG and SSVF performance.

Mollie, who is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Work degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Mollie’s previous case management experience at a homeless shelter helped Mollie recognize her compassion for ending homelessness. Mollie is eager to support ESG and SSVF recipients and sub-recipients  to end homelessness within their communities.

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Marliza Marin
Ending Veteran Homelessness Specialist

As the Ending Veteran Homelessness Specialist, Marliza’s duties include working with local stakeholders from around the Balance of State Continuum of Care to ensure a plan is in place to end Veteran homelessness. 

Marliza was born and raised in El Paso, TX. She holds three Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science, History, and Psychology from Texas State University. Prior to Marliza’s work at THN, she worked with several nonprofit organizations focused on uplifting the voices of underrepresented communities, civic engagement and reproductive justice. She is excited to be in a position where she can use her public speaking skills and passion for advocacy to end Veteran homelessness across the Balance of State.

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Katie Martinez
Systems Change Specialist

As the Systems Change Specialist, Katie supports systems change efforts at THN by partnering with communities within the TX Balance of State CoC on their Coordinated Entry (CE) process efforts. Her main focuses are CE assessor training and CE implementation in new regions. Katie is originally from the Houston, TX area and received her bachelor’s degree in Community Health from Baylor University.  Her passion lies in food access and nutrition, women’s health, and fair housing.

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Marissa Ortega
Coordinated Entry Data Specialist

Marissa joined Texas Homeless Network as the Data VISTA in 2018. Throughout her year of service at THN as a VISTA, she worked closely with the Data Coordinator, whom she helped plan and coordinate the 2019 Point-in-Time Count (PIT) as well as the 2019 Housing Inventory Count (HIC). Now as the Coordinated Entry Data Specialist, Marissa works closely with the Systems Change Team to provide seamless support, guidance, and training on data directly to Coordinated Entry Planning Entities to support data-based decision making in public policies. Marissa is originally from San Antonio, Texas and received her B.S. in Environmental Science from Texas A&M University.

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Jaynna Sims
ESG Grant Specialist

Jaynna is the Emergency Solutions Grant Specialist.  They grew up in rural East Texas and are excited to work with rural communities across the state to address homelessness.  After getting their Bachelor degrees in Psychology and Computer Science in 2001, they worked in software for some years.  In that time, they started a program for refugee youth and were on the Board for the refugee organization, worked to improve 9-1-1 response to mental health crises, and spent years doing anti-racist community organizing, among a number of other volunteer community work.

Once Jaynna achieved their Master of Science in Social Work with a concentration in Administration and Policy Practice in 2018, they worked in mental health policy and spent 2019 in Guatemala learning Spanish to better serve Texas communities.  Jaynna is passionate about impacted individuals and communities being leaders in finding and implementing solutions and they know that truly ending homelessness is rooted in eliminating systemic oppression.  Nature is Jaynna’s medicine for the soul and they seek daily how to spend more time communing with nature.

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Mary Rychlik Stahlke, LMSW
Assistant Director of Engagement

Mary serves as the Assistant Director of Engagement for the Texas Balance of State CoC. She facilitates the involvement of CoC members, including CoC Board members, local homeless coalitions (LHCs), and mainstream partners, in CoC planning and operations. She also coordinates CoC efforts with other programs, funding streams, and community planning activities.

Mary has expertise in HUD’s CoC Program, Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program, and Consolidated Planning and in the education of homeless children and youth. She has facilitated processes on a CoC level and with LHCs and ESG recipients. Mary has 23 years of experience in homeless services, including direct practice, program administration, and performance evaluation in a school district, city and state governments, and faith-based and statewide non-profit organizations.

Mary is a Licensed Master Social Worker who earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in social work from The University of Texas at Austin. Her passion is working to end homelessness because every person deserves an affordable place to live, feel safe, and thrive.

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Anja Taylor
Barriers Fund Coordinator

Anja serves as the Barriers Fund Coordinator at THN. In this role, she is responsible for establishing and managing the Barriers Fund across the Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care. The Barriers Fund helps ensure Texas residents have a safe and stable place to call home.  

Anja is a passionate change-maker with expertise in grants management, technical communication, restorative justice, and conflict resolution. She holds a Bachelor of General Studies degree from Texas Tech University, and a Master’s degree in Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management from Southern Methodist University. 

Anja has a deep desire to help others and utilizes her skills to support nonprofits that serve to elevate the human experience.

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Jacq Taylor
AmeriCorps VISTA Project Assistant 

Jacq is the AmeriCorps VISTA Project Associate. Previous to getting hired on with THN, they served two terms of national service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, first with an education nonprofit in Houston, then as a Leader with Feeding Texas, a statewide nonprofit addressing food insecurity. They are excited to continue working alongside VISTA members to build systems and local coalitions to end homelessness. Jacq is a Texas native from the Lubbock area, currently living in Austin. They are passionate about building frameworks to advance racial equity, LGBTQ+ rights, community coalitions, reading, and taking long walks with their dog, Summer.

A bearded white man with chestnut colored trimmed hair and beard stands outside in a navy, light-blue, and white plaid button down shirt with only the top button remaining undone. Some teeth come through the beard to form a smile in front of a background of greenery. His right and left ears are slightly sunburned from the Texas summer. There is a ripe pomegranate growing from one of the trees in the background. The photo has been slightly altered to smooth out ridges on Nick's forehead and adjust the level of lighting.

Nick Thompson
Statewide Initiatives Manager

As the Statewide Initiatives Manager, Nick supports communities through THN’s Statewide Initiatives and Texas Balance of State’s (TX BoS CoC) programs. His primary function in this role is to administer an AmeriCorps VISTA intermediary program across the state, support advocacy efforts, and help with fund development.

Nick is originally from Dallas, Texas and holds a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies from St. Edward’s University. He is working on completing his Master of Public Administration from Texas State University. Nick has completed two AmeriCorps terms of service himself, one here in Austin and the other in St. Louis. His passion lies in voting rights, educational equity, housing reform, and public transportation.

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Jim Ward
Assistant Director of Planning

As the Assistant Director of Planning, Jim works closely with the Corporation for Supportive Housing, CoC Leads around the State, Balance of State Stakeholders, Continuum of Care -funded Projects, ESG Recipients, SSVF Grantees and HUD Field Offices to further the CoC’s strategic vision of making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in the Balance of State.

Coming from a decade long career in direct service, Jim understands the pressures on the ground when working to end homelessness.   Please consider him your ally in the fight to end homelessness.

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Kristin Zakoor
Assistant Director of Data

Kristin is the Assistant Director of Data at THN. She oversees the coordination and implementation of the Point-In-Time Count and Housing Inventory Count, LSA and HMIS. Her team works closely with the CoC Planning team to enhance data-related projects for the TX BoS CoC. Kristin has worked with several homeless service providers in Austin and is very passionate about using data to create actionable information that helps to improve the lives of those in need. Kristin received her Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the University of Michigan.

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Linda Xiong
Systems Change Coordinator

As the Systems Change Coordinator, Linda serves as the liaison between THN and the Coordinated Entry Planning Entities. She also supports systems change in the planning and implementation of Coordinated Entry in the TX Balance of State COC. She holds a Masters of Sustainable Peacebuilding from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she studied systems thinking and conflict transformation. She is passionate about building relationships and resilience in communities. Her interest in addressing social and environmental issues stems from her background in the fashion industry where a multitude of issues emerge.

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Jacq Taylor
AmeriCorps VISTA Project Assistant 

Jacq is the AmeriCorps VISTA Project Associate. Previous to getting hired on with THN, they served two terms of national service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, first with an education nonprofit in Houston, then as a Leader with Feeding Texas, a statewide nonprofit addressing food insecurity. They are excited to continue working alongside VISTA members to build systems and local coalitions to end homelessness. Jacq is a Texas native from the Lubbock area, currently living in Austin. They are passionate about building frameworks to advance racial equity, LGBTQ+ rights, community coalitions, reading, and taking long walks with their dog, Summer.

A bearded white man with chestnut colored trimmed hair and beard stands outside in a navy, light-blue, and white plaid button down shirt with only the top button remaining undone. Some teeth come through the beard to form a smile in front of a background of greenery. His right and left ears are slightly sunburned from the Texas summer. There is a ripe pomegranate growing from one of the trees in the background. The photo has been slightly altered to smooth out ridges on Nick's forehead and adjust the level of lighting.

Nick Thompson
Statewide Initiatives Manager

As the Statewide Initiatives Manager, Nick supports communities through THN’s Statewide Initiatives and Texas Balance of State’s (TX BoS CoC) programs. His primary function in this role is to administer an AmeriCorps VISTA intermediary program across the state, support advocacy efforts, and help with fund development.

Nick is originally from Dallas, Texas and holds a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies from St. Edward’s University. He is working on completing his Master of Public Administration from Texas State University. Nick has completed two AmeriCorps terms of service himself, one here in Austin and the other in St. Louis. His passion lies in voting rights, educational equity, housing reform, and public transportation.

A balding white man in his mid-thirties with a DIY haircut and blue wool-blend suit jacket on blue background. He has a serious look, but playful blue-green eyes.

Jim Ward
Assistant Director of Planning

As the Assistant Director of Planning, Jim works closely with the Corporation for Supportive Housing, CoC Leads around the State, Balance of State Stakeholders, Continuum of Care -funded Projects, ESG Recipients, SSVF Grantees and HUD Field Offices to further the CoC’s strategic vision of making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in the Balance of State.

Coming from a decade long career in direct service, Jim understands the pressures on the ground when working to end homelessness.   Please consider him your ally in the fight to end homelessness.

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