STAFF

Eric Samuels

President & 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.

Jen Beardsley

Local Homeless Coalition (LHC) 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.

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.

Sophia Checa

CoC Director

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.

Samantha Foss

Director of Development & 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.

Brian Goodner

Director of Finance and Human Resources

Brian is the Director of Finance and Human Resources 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.

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. 

    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.

    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.

    Katie Ledbetter

    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.

      Deanne Lock

      Accounting and Human Resources 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.

      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.

      Mollie Lund

      ESG & SSVF Coordinator

      Mollie Lund joined THN as the ESG & SSVF Performance Coordinator in November of 2018. Mollie supports Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program recipients and sub recipients and Supportive Service for Veterans Families (SSVF) recipients 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, sub recipients and grantees to improve ESG and SSVF performance.

      Mollie, who is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work 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

      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.

      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.

      Nick Thompson

      VISTA Program 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.

      Email Nick Thompson

        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.

        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.

        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.

        BOARD

        Todd Shell

        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.

          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.

            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.

              Bill Hubbard

              Vice Chair

              Bill retired in 2017 from his position as the Executive Director of the South Alamo Regional Alliance (SARAH) for the Homeless, one he has held since May of 2015.  He became engaged with low income and poverty issues while working at the Internal Revenue Service, where he retired after a 32-year career.  Most of that time he spent managing enforcement programs. He spent his last 7 years promoting low-income tax credits, financial literacy, and asset building through the IRS coalition building and outreach programs in Central and South Texas.  San Antonio developed one of the largest free tax preparation (VITA) programs in the country within those programs.  When he retired, the City of San Antonio offered him a position to support the city’s effort in developing the Haven for Hope campus.    In that job, he worked with the Haven for Hope development team, service providers, and other stakeholders to establish the basis for the homeless initiatives.

              As the Executive Director of SARAH Bill was responsible for the day to day operations of the Continuum of Care for San Antonio/Bexar County.  Those operations include the annual Point in Time Count, HUD Grant Competition, evaluation of service provider performance, adherence to HUD homeless guidelines and implementation of HUD directives such as Coordinated Entry System and Housing First.  He provides oversight for all program requirements and manages stakeholder relations.

              Bill is a veteran of the United States Coast Guard.  He and his wife have been married for 47 years and have one son, a career Army officer, and three grandchildren.

                Stephanie Day

                Member

                Stephanie Day has multiple years of business and leadership experience.  She completed her undergraduate studies at Concordia University Texas, where she obtained Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Business Administration and Communications.  Stephanie attended Keller Graduate School of Management where she received an MBA in Business Administration including a concentration in International Studies.  Stephanie completed her doctorate degree at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology where she earned a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership.  Until retirement, Stephanie taught courses in business, management, and leadership both domestically and abroad.

                 

                  Tamara Foster

                  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.

                    Daniel Kuehn

                    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.

                      Nathan Pisik

                      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.

                        Picture of Jo Schaeffer smiling with blonde short hair leaning against a grey wall in a grey three-quarter shirt,

                        Jo Schaeffer

                        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

                          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.

                            Greg Thoennes

                            Member

                            Greg Thoennes graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in Emergency Services Administration. While attending UVU, Greg began his career in human services while working part-time in group homes with individuals diagnosed with intellectual disabilities. Over the next few years, Greg advanced in his career by holding multiple roles with several organizations that specialize in assisting individuals with intellectual, mental, and physical disabilities within the local community. In 2014, Greg moved to Austin, Texas where he currently works as Executive Director of a national human services company. The many stories and experiences shared with Greg while working within the IDD/MH community spurred his passion for ending homelessness. In addition to serving on the Board for the Texas Homeless Network, Greg also serves as Assistant Commissioner on the Board for Softball Austin.

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