TSAHC Partner Spotlight: An Interview with Kathy Tyler

October 21, 2016 | by Katie Claflin

Categories: Affordable Housing, Home Rehabilitation/Repairs, Homeownership, Spotlight, Texas Foundations Fund

Every quarter TSAHC's On the House blog spotlights a staff member or partner to help our readers get to know our mission and industry a little better.

This week we have interviewed Kathy Tyler, Housing Services Director of Motivation, Education and Training, Inc. (MET). MET is a regional nonprofit organization committed to providing housing, education and vocational services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency. 

TSAHC has partnered with MET through our Affordable Communities and Texas and Texas Foundations Fund programs to create homeownership opportunities and provide critical home repairs for farmworkers and other hardworking families in South Texas.

Kathy has spent 17 years with MET and has played a critical role in helping the organization grow its housing services for farm worker families. 

1. Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in the affordable housing industry.

I came to housing through my undergraduate social work degree. While working in the neighborhoods of Clarksville and East Austin, I learned that what residents needed most was housing – whether it was improvements to their home, negotiating with landlords, a new place to live, or a loan to buy a home. My experiences inspired me to enroll in graduate school, still in social work, but with an emphasis on real estate and housing policy.

2. How long have you worked with Motivation, Education and Training, Inc. (MET) and how has the organization grown since you've been there?

This is my second stint with MET. I worked for them in the 1980s and came back in 2004, so collectively I’ve been here 17 years. When I was with MET in the 1980s we operated employment, training, and housing programs for farmworkers in Texas and Louisiana. Now we operate those same programs in 5 states – Texas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wyoming.

Furthermore, we've added an entire early education focus, mostly in East Texas around our New Caney headquarters, that now includes Head Start, Early Head Start, nutrition, Head Start in day care, home visiting, and fatherhood programs. We also added Senior Community Service Employment Program services in 65 counties in the Panhandle.

Expanding our programs also means that we have tripled the number of employees, hiring mostly women. Our leadership changed this year too, and the board selected our first woman as executive director.

3. MET is widely regarded as one of the leading providers of housing and other services for the farm worker community. To what do you attribute the organization's success?

Our biggest advantages are our staff, our history of doing similar programs for a long time, and our solid reputation among peers and the farmworker community. MET’s housing field staff are dedicated, talented, and creative problem solvers. Most of MET’s staff have worked in farmwork and come from farmworker families. They respect the difficult work that farmworkers perform and understand the housing issues and lack of resources.

It amazes me what our staff can do to assist folks without toilets, hot water, or safe electricity on the limited resources we can cobble together. I consider our housing staff to be miracle workers sometimes –whenever there is not enough money to tackle a particular problem, they bring together our contractors, self-help measures, contributions from residents, and whatever resources are out there to make sure our families receive the help that they need.

4. What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?

I would say that there are four accomplishments that stand out over the course of my career:

  • There is still affordable housing in the gentrified historic Clarksville neighborhood in Austin, where I worked in the 1970-80s, and I’m glad some original Clarksville residents can still live there.
  • In my first stint with MET we developed farmworker housing in Hereford, Texas that still provides quality farmworker homes in a community that at the time was very resistant.
  • From 1989 to 2003 I worked for McAuley Institute headquartered near Washington DC and lent $15 million for housing activities across the country. That allowed me into the lives of incredible everyday women accomplishing sensational feats in their communities.
  • And finally, it is heartwarming to see the transformation in people’s lives as well as their homes when a unit without basic services is rehabbed into a modest livable space. That makes me feel very privileged, and thankful to MET’s miracle-working housing staff of Beatriz Farias, Meliza Castillo, Rick Camarillo, and Mayte Mendez. I hope we’ve brought some attention to farmworker housing needs in Texas.

5. Who is your professional role model and why?

I worked in the Clarksville neighborhood during the 1970s and early 1980s. Rarely a day passes when I don’t remember something that Mary Baylor, a Clarksville leader and my boss, said to me. She was blessed with a practical wisdom, energy, and generosity that still speak to me, even though she died almost 20 years ago.

6. What are some of your favorite things to do in your free time?

I am an avid listener of all the great music that Austin has to offer. I love walking my dog (and walking without him too). I also love to read and listen to books. Volunteering with HousingWorks Austin and Austin Women in Housing is very important to me as well.

On the House blog posts are meant to provide general information on various housing-related issues, research and programs. We are not liable for any errors or inaccuracies in the information provided by blog sources. Furthermore, this blog is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.

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