TSAHC Partner Spotlight: Claudia Ruelas with NeighborWorks Laredo

September 15, 2023 | by Anna Orendain

Categories: Spotlight

We periodically spotlight a staff member or partner to help our readers get to know our mission and industry a little better.

This week we interviewed Claudia Ruelas, Lead HUD Certified Housing Counselor at NeighborWorks Laredo, a nonprofit housing organization located in Laredo, Texas. Claudia is one of the many counselors who has benefitted from our Housing Connection training.

Below is our interview with Claudia.

Tell us a little bit about NeighborWorks Laredo and its work.

NeighborWorks Laredo (NWL) is known for having exemplary service and staff in the city of Laredo and surrounding areas. Our organization strives to aid Laredo residents not only through our homeownership center, but with alternate services such as our below market rental units, our community loan center with low interest rates, our weatherization program which benefits surrounding rural areas, and also our journey to become a CDFI agency which allows us to be a one-stop shop. I'm also happy to report that we are working on a development with 24 single-family affordable homes, to bring homeownership opportunities to Laredo families. 

What types of counseling services does NeighborWorks Laredo provide?

NWL’s main focus with the community is being a homeownership counseling center that offers homebuyer education and counseling, a credit improvement program, post purchase education and counseling, and foreclosure prevention. Our organization offers guidance on becoming a homeowner from start to finish through education and counseling for individuals who wish to invest in a new home. 

We also have credit management counseling where we guide our clients on how to read, improve, and manage their credit. Our foreclosure prevention program is well-known in our area with the counseling services provided by Patricia Ayala who is 100% dedicated in advocating for our clients, but also empowering them for future situations in their home. After clients purchase a home, we encourage them to take a post purchase class to learn more about homeownership and home maintenance.

Due to COVID-19, NWL had to expand services to include rental and mortgage counseling in conjunction with the Housing Stability Counseling Program (HSCP) and the Texas Homeowner Assistance Funding (TxHAF). Our services continue to expand and thrive even through difficult times for our community in an environment where many homeowners are facing foreclosure, and home buyers are dealing with increased home prices and interest rates.

Tell us about yourself and how you were first introduced to the housing world.

In April 2018, I was privileged to start a new journey with NeighborWorks Laredo as an accounting assistant. After three months, I discovered how NWL is involved with our community and their homebuying education course. Given the opportunity, I took the lead on working in homebuying classes due to personal experiences during the purchase of my own home. Education is the key to your new house, and I would prefer that others learn from my experiences and learn how to handle multiple different situations throughout the homebuying process if needed.  

Walk us through a typical day for you at NeighborWorks Laredo.

My weekdays in office are a never-ending opportunity to learn and use new skills. Our days are never without amusement, starting from making a cup of coffee to saying good-bye and leaving the office. But in between, I talk to clients, work on their files, reach out to partners, assist my CEO in marketing and any other special project. I believe communication and support of other staff members are key to enjoying your workplace.  

What is your favorite thing about the work you do?

All of NWL staff members are cross-trained so we can provide 100% of our services to those who seek out our orientation, but my favorite part of my job is providing our Home Purchase Education Course. My class is interactive, exciting, and a safe place for our attendees. At times, our attendees feel skeptical of what to expect from our course, but there is no better satisfaction than looking at our post class survey and seeing all of their questions were answered. The “Ah-Ha” moments from our attendees are like music to my ears.

You got to know TSAHC through our Housing Connection training for counselors and we appreciate your work as a counselor. Tell us about your experience going through that training and what people attending should expect. 

I’ve had the pleasure to attend in-person courses with TSAHC, and they’re great! TSAHC's hospitality and their efforts to reach out to us for counselor development is wonderful. I have been seeking a Rental Counseling certification, and TSAHC offered a course that goes toward earning it. I can say their training did not disappoint! The course instructor acquired by TSAHC was interactive and attentive to our questions. I would suggest to read about the courses they’re providing before registering, and be ready with all your questions written down to have them answered.

What information or advice has significantly helped your career or organizational goals?

Continuing education course work is a plus! As counselors, we see and have conversations with a variety of individuals who are in need. It is up to us to learn compassion and comprehension to help with what they’re experiencing. I believe all training courses have something in common, and it is learning how to empathize with every single client that you communicate with.

Which personal or professional accomplishments are you most proud of?

Having zero to no experience in the non-profit housing world, I am proud to say I obtained my HUD certification as a counselor only a year after being hired! The appropriate training and endless hours of studying allowed me to accomplish one of my greatest goals.

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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