Emergency Housing Services Team
We are a team of passionate dreamers, doers, and changemakers. We pride ourselves on having professional team members who work together to bring healing, provide safety, and deliver hope to the people we serve.
Director of Emergency Housing Services
Michelle is the director of a new division of Family Support Services- Emergency Housing Services. This division was created after consideration of the current challenges we face as community and agency, the direction we want to grow in, and to take advantage of the talented staff we have in place. This new department will allow for increased focus and development of Safe House services and 24 hour crisis hotline services.
Michelle previously served as the volunteer coordinator for FSS before being promoted to Shelter Manager, and now her new position. Michelle has been instrumental in creating and implementing innovative programs that are focused on delivering services to domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault survivors from a holistic trauma informed perspective.
Prior to becoming a Licensed Master Social Worker, Michelle spent time as a dental assistant, preschool director, tech on a med surgery floor, and started to obtain a degree in nursing. But, her passion for underserved people and wanting to be a part of social change shifted her focus to social work. She is passionate about eliminating barriers, oppression, and faulty beliefs around domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. The value Michelle lives by, “sometimes the greatest thing you can do for someone is to sit with them and bear witness to their suffering, and remind them of the value and strength they possess”.
Michelle received her Master’s degree in Social Work at Arizona State University (ASU) in 2011 (advanced standing), with her undergraduate degree in Social Work also at ASU in 2010 (magna cum laude). She previously held positions as the shelter coordinator for the Salvation Army of Amarillo, as the Director of Domestic Abuse Programs and Direct Services Manager for Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse in Tuscon, AZ, and as a medical social worker. In a collaborative effort with the University of Arizona, she was recognized in published research for creating access for survivors of Domestic Violence to women’s health screenings and education on healthy relationships.
Michelle loves the outdoors. She is avid fisher “woman”, loves to camp and garden. She is also quite the seamstress. She has won blue ribbons for her work! Most importantly, she loves spending time with her grown children.
Safe House Manager
Hannah Finkenbinder is the Case Manager for the Transitional Housing program at the Safe House. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Human Sciences with a focus in Community, Family, and Addiction Sciences from Texas Tech University. Before beginning her journey at Family Support Services, Hannah was in an intern for Safe Place Inc. in Dumas, Texas where she began to exercise her passion for advocating for, encouraging, and empowering men, women, children, and families. The drive to help others is what called Hannah to Family Support Services. Hannah strives to assist individuals and families to reach their goals and greatest potential, and working as a part of the Safe House team has given her the ability to do just that. Her favorite part about working in the Safe House is the amazing success stories she gets to witness. “There is nothing better than getting to see individuals leaving the Safe House, going into housing on their own two feet, with a smile on their face, that’s when you know you helped make a difference in someone’s life.” Hannah believes that every client that walks through our door is special and unique and deserves the best chance we can give them. Interacting with clients and their families is important to Hannah and she believes that taking the time to sit down and talk with someone can move mountains. “It is important to feel heard, we don’t always understand what each client is going through, but we can hear them, and sometimes that is the most important thing we can do.” In Hannah’s spare time, she loves being with her family, traveling, going to the movies, taking walks, and hanging out with her partner and miniature Australian Shepherd, Willow. She thoroughly enjoys being out and about and loves to explore new places and meet new people. Hannah has only been with Family Support services a short time, but is appreciative to all of the knowledge and experienced she has gained since being here, she looks forward to everything she can continue to learn in the future.
Susan is an advocate at the Safe House. She graduated from Slippery Rock University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Secondary Education with a focus in mathematics. She is a transplant from the east coast. After seeing the sky, sunrise and sunset of the west, Susan decided to put down roots in New Mexico. Prior to moving to Amarillo, Susan taught mathematics in the public school systems in Pennsylvania and New Mexico. Arriving in Amarillo about 10 years ago, Susan continued working in education but not in public schools, this time she worked in vocation education helping others to achieve a lifelong career.
Never imaging working in a safe house, but a friend told Susan about a position at the safe house. The thought of working with survivors was intriguing because in her past, Susan had encountered domestic violence but was unable to help the victim or the offender. Helping survivors overcome obstacles in order to create a safe healthier existence is a privilege. A highlight of working at the safe house is the daily interactions with people and seeing the survivors thrive.
In her spare time, you can find Susan sitting in a bleacher either at a wrestling match, football game, or baseball game cheering on her two Grandsons
Only by giving are you able to receive more than you give”—Jim Rohn
Safe House Advocate
Brenda Talamantes is a part time Safe House Advocate. Brenda has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology form Lubbock Christian University. Brenda’s past experience has been working in post graduate education for over 8 years. She has teaching and student services experience. Her main function is to support students in their education journey and reach graduation. Brenda currently works full time at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center as their OB/GYN Residency Program Manager. Brenda strongly believes that education is the key to success.
Brenda likes to see the big picture and understands the importance of her contribution. She hopes her support will help Family Support Services clients during their difficult times.
Brenda enjoys spending time with her family. Her favorite time of the year is the fall, mainly to watch her favorite football team, the New York Giants.
Case Manager- Transitional
Jacki Welch recently returned to the Texas Panhandle and found her new work family with FSS. She was born and raised here, but left for a few years to attend Brigham Young University. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and worked in Utah for a short while. She met her husband in high school and they got married while finishing their college education. They are thrilled to be back home and closer to their families and friends.
Jacki and her husband love to travel and experience new cultures and places. When they can’t travel the world, they also like to engage with people closer to home. They are particularly interested in working with the refugee and immigrant populations.
Jacki enjoys cooking, reading, keeping up with the NBA and college football (thanks to her husband), and shopping. She also makes efforts to be environmentally friendly, and persuade friends and family to do likewise.
Jacki is conscious of the world around her. She recognizes the many doors that have been opened in her life, and longs to help those who have not experienced the same opportunities. She loves and cares deeply for the people in her life, and desires to make a positive impact on every individual she encounters.
Facilities Maintenance Technician
It was in 1967 that Vaughn, an Airforce brat, became an Amarillo citizen. He graduated from Palo Duro High in 1976. He attended Texas a & M University and the University of Michigan. He completed his degree in Mathematics at Eastern Michigan University. After serving in the Army for over 10 years Vaughn returned to Amarillo. He worked as a carpenter and surveyor. In his free time , Vaughn enjoys white water rafting, camping, repelling, and mountain biking. He is a value to the Safe house and always there to fix anything and willing to lend a helping hand.
Adam is a Safe House PRN Advocate. He comes from Dumas, Texas where he was born and raised. Adam attended Amarillo College where he obtained his A.S. in Psychology. He then transferred to West Texas A&M University and received his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.
Before joining the Family Support Services team, Adam worked for Safe Place, Inc. in Dumas over a span of 6 years. In that time, he worked as a Shelter Advocate, was an intern, and worked as the Administrative Assistant. His very first job was working at Safe Place. Fresh out of high school, one of his professors “forced” Adam to apply to the agency. His professor asked him to only pick up an application, but little did Adam know that there was an interview waiting for him when he arrived. Adam had no knowledge or experience when it came to working with victims of abuse, but the people in his life knew it was his calling before he did.
Adam had always wanted to relocate to a bigger city. It wasn’t until recently that he had the opportunity that called him to Amarillo and Family Support Services. He is excited to use his previous knowledge and experience to further his passion for empowering and advocating for men, women, children, and families in need.
In Adam’s spare time, he loves playing tennis, going to the movies, traveling, and being with his friends and family. He loves to explore new places and meet new people. Adam has been with Family Support Services for a short time, but is excited for the opportunity to be a part of our agency and looks forward to continue to learn and be a change in the world.
“To save a life is to save all of humanity.”
Jacob Gillette , also known as Jake (not from State Farm), was born in El Paso and grew up in Allen, Texas. he started college at Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) then transferred to West Texas A& M University to finish his degree in Fine Arts with a minor in Sociology. Jake is currently working on his Master’s Degree in LPC Counseling at Colorado Chrisitan University.
During his free time, Jake loves to create art, chill with friends, and cook. He also enjoys working out, along with playing and watching basketball. The Portland Trailblazers are his favorite team. Traveling is also another great passion of Jake’s. He has traveled to Hong Kong for two weeks exploring the culture and experiencing eating excellent street food. Three years ago, Jake traveled to the United Kingdom for two weeks, driving from London through Scotland. For his next adventure, Jake hopes to see Japan and all the little villages and the Tokyo craziness.
Safe House PRN Advocate
Vanessa works as a fulltime Grant Manager for the City of Amarillo. She also has numerous years of experience in case management targeted in housing homeless Veterans and housing assistance. She believes that her career, resources and personal experiences can assist families and individuals through Family Support Services during their trial times and unto healthy self-sufficiency. Vanessa has a passion for helping others, she believes that everyone deserves someone who cares and a helping hand. Everyone has an experience to tell and a story to share that should be heard. If it weren’t for the trial, there would be no testimony.
In her spare time, she loves to spend her time with her family watching movies and doing activities. She also has a passion for DIY’s which she loves to incorporate in her household or any given opportunity.
She would like to remind those who are in a trying time to remember the quote by Nelson Mandela; “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
806 Acts Case Manager
Elena has a background in crisis, direct services, and trauma care. Elena graduated from West Texas A&M University with her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Social Work and a minor in Art. Elena has worked in many Social Work roles and many areas here in the Texas Panhandle. Elena specializes in human behavior in the social environment and human behavior in the personal environment as well as mental health and wellness.
Elena was born and raised in Amarillo and has a miniature family of herself and her daughter (puppy) Sophia whom she loves and spends her spare time with.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only like can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” MLK
Safe House Advocate
Zack was raised most of his life in Amarillo and graduated from West Texas A&M University with a degree in Mass Communications with an emphasis in Film & Electronic Media. Zack loves spending his free time helping others out and is an avid personal trainer/wellness coach.
Safe House Advocate
Karli was born and raised in Pampa, TX and moved to Amarillo to pursue an undergraduate degree in Psychology at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU). A few years after graduating in 2016 she began her Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), which she obtained in February of 2020. She has a passion to help others no matter the situation and believes everyone has the right to be heard and make a difference in this world. Karli is so excited to be working with Family Support Services as an advocate for individuals in need.
When Karli is not working, she is spending time with her family and two Australian shepherds (Alaska & Sven), watching Harry Potter, and listening to podcasts. She loves traveling and hiking in Palo Duro Canyon with her husband and two pups. Karli loves going to the beach, where she can relax in the sun and the sand.
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends” -Albus Dumbledore
Emergency Housing Services Advocate
After several years abroad, JoAnna finally returned to her native Amarillo after completing graduate degrees in Traditional Craft from the University of Tsukuba in Japan. Continuing to work in International Education since her return, she is excited to now work with Family Support Services as an advocate so that she may be of service in the local community. She enjoys assisting others find resources and hone skills to create an environment in their life for growth and empowerment in order to fulfill their goals as best they see fit.
When not at work as an advocate, JoAnna works remotely as a Japanese-English translator, continues to create art, and wrangles a pack of moderately angry chihuahuas.
Safe House Advocate
Tania Fuentes is the evening Safe House Advocate. The proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, she was born and raised in Amarillo, Texas. Tania attended West Texas A& M University in Canyon, Texas where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice- Corrections. She was also an intern with the Potter County Probation Department, where her passion for helping others grew even more.
While attending Palo Duro High School she was randomly put in a Law Enforcement Class as one of her electives, it was there where her passion to help others started. Growing up on the North Side of Amarillo she saw the need in her community to help those who were often overlooked based on the side of town they lived in. Being Bilingual she felt she would be a great asset to help her community. That is why she decided to pursue her degree in Criminal Justice so she could be a voice to those who needed it the most.
In her free time, she enjoys reading as well as traveling with friends and family and making new memories. She is a kid at heart, she loves anything Spongebob and Superhero related, especially Batman.
Psalms 46:5 “God is within her, she will not fall.”
Ginsberg the Advocat
We are pleased to introduce Ginsberg the Advocat! Ginsberg has called the Safe House his home for about 4 months now. This friendly kitty likes to spend his days climbing trees, snacking on treats, and loving on clients and staff. His fluff and charm have assisted in de-escalating many a crisis and soothed some aching hearts. The Safe House is proud to have this sweet feline as a member of our team!