Banner

Our Metro Relief Team

Our people, our strength.

The staff members at Metro Relief are a unique group of people who are here to serve you. It is our desire that, from your first contact with our organization, you'll see our passion for our friends living on the streets. Each member of our team serves a very specific role in leadership, outreach, case management and mobilizing volunteers. We are grateful to have the best of the best working together.

Executive Team

Photo of Austin Bonds

Austin Bonds

Founder and CEO

Indiana Wesleyan Alumni, Austin Bonds, journeyed through youth and came to college in a way most IWU alumni only watch in movie plots. His winding story of eventual success taught him the value of the human story and the ministry available to those willing to listen.

His Dallas Texas ministry, Metro Relief, graciously seeks to discover the story of homeless people then intently finds a pathway home for each one open to help. Austin’s inspiration to help the homeless find homes comes from an array of flashbacks and experiences as a youth growing up across the street from IWU in Marion, Indiana.

Austin and his family dealt with the same struggles prevalent in this neighborhood today including poverty, addictions, and problems with the law. However, living near IWU’s campus gave him a familiarity that would later help him. Austin remembers walking across IWU’s campus to get to his elementary school, Center Elementary, now known as Center Hall on campus. “We would walk through this campus to go to Center School. It was the best way to walk to school, straight through the campus…from 1st through 4th grade, I got to know the campus well. We rode our bikes here every weekend.”

Because of his daily short-cut to school, he knew the buildings, including College Wesleyan Church. So, when friends invited him to play basketball in middle school at JC Body Shop, the College Wesleyan youth group, he gladly agreed. People from the church and IWU welcomed him, namely Mike Munday. Mike and others embraced these kids from “The Hood” and Austin remembers feeling accepted. When someone invited him to church on a Sunday morning, he went. And he kept going. He remembers the night he gave his life to Christ at a “hell, fire, and brimstone” meeting. He stepped forward, realizing his depravity and need for a Savior.

Austin kept attending youth group and church for two or three years, then around age 15, he traded his Sunday shoes for street shoes. Austin ran around the town with little supervision. He eventually got a job, saved some money, and filled out an application for an apartment. To Austin’s shock and delight, even though he was underage, he qualified for the apartment. He lived on his own, working to pay the bills and having fun with his friends when he could. Without supervision and left to his own ideas, he found trouble. Austin says, “I was trouble. …This place was party central.” The worst of this came when he was a senior in high school. He chose to rob a school and was promptly caught. On March 21, 1996, Austin’s senior year, he was arrested.

The same night Austin was arrested, he says, “My heart was changed.” He went to prison and the change in his heart grew and was guided by mentors. Jack Brady was the jail chaplain and attended College Wesleyan Church. He regularly sent people like Terry Munday who discipled Austin. “Jack Brady (from College Wesleyan Church) was just sending me people. They only let you out of your jail cell for library hour once a week, chapel hour once a week, and anytime you had a visitor. I was so excited anytime I got a visitor because I got to get out of my cell!” He eagerly took in the ministry of these men.

 Early during his time in prison, Austin wrote a letter to his high school guidance counselor, Anne Moudy, to ask if he could finish high school. She encouraged him to do so and made sure it happened. When he finished his coursework, she came to the jail with his diploma, humming the commencement tune while she handed it to him. She told him, “You’re the only one I’ve ever heard doing this.” With a high school diploma in hand and the discipleship he experienced behind bars, his heart and mind were ready for more than a criminal’s life.

The next step Austin wanted to take was college. He applied from jail to Olivet, Grace, and IWU. He filled out paper applications and mailed them in with the return address of the Grant County Jail. Somehow, his application fees were covered, and he was accepted at both Grace and IWU. It was difficult to see IWU as his first choice in schools because of his years at College Wesleyan Church. While a handful of men and peers accepted him, he felt many others hold him at arms-length, curious but not yet willing to invest in the lives of kids who ran the streets. He felt Grace was the right choice for him and decided to attend as a traditional student at Grace College as soon as his jail sentence ended. 

Austin was released from jail on August 21st, 1996, just 5 months after being incarcerated. He was sentenced to an additional 4 years’ probation and knew the fall semester was already underway. He decided to wait until January to begin studying at Grace. He began looking for a job, made more difficult because of his criminal record. However, he was hired by Marriot Food Services to work in the kitchen at IWU. Company policy didn’t allow for ex-convicts to work at full-time status, so Austin reported in each day for three short shifts and ended up working 60 hours without being considered full-time. During his time in the kitchen at IWU, he built relationships with the students, many of whom were his age.

Austin had his eye on the January semester start date at Grace college, but one of the most devastating days of his life wrecked his plan. On the evening of January 4th, Austin went to visit his mother, Thomasena, only to find police cars and her apartment taped off, indicating an active investigation. He quickly discovered she had been murdered. To this day, the case is unsolved, and it was a devastating blow to Austin and his family. He ended up going to Grace college two weeks late and completed the spring semester at Grace College. He decided to enroll for fall classes at IWU in 1997 as a transfer student.

It took Austin the traditional 4 years to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in recreational management. While a student, he met his wife, Darcy, and they married just before their senior year at age 21. After graduation in May of 2001, Austin began looking for jobs in the camp industry. His heart was in it, but becoming a camp leader as an ex-convict wasn’t working out. In fact, not very many people were willing to hire ex-convicts. “As an educated felon, it’s hard to get a job. I even got to a final round in the interviewing process for one job, and they hired the other candidate because he didn’t have a criminal record.” Austin did what he advises convicts today to do, “Start your own business.” When Austin takes the opportunity to speak at prisons, he tells them, “They’ll give you the keys to their mansion because somehow owning your own business makes you legit.” Austin found success as a business owner for five years in his own venture, a home inspector and contractor.

In 2006, through an IWU connection, Austin met Dan and Angela Stoltzfus. The Stoltzfus’ ministered to people in New York City using a bus as a catalyst for resources through their ministry called City Relief. They would drive the bus to people who needed resources, build relationships with the people in need, and then bring the resources to them or them to the

resources. These IWU alumni were doing ministry the way that made most sense to Austin.

 

He and his wife joined the City Relief effort that year. He said, “If you’re a bus in New York City, you can turn your steering wheel down a different avenue. They were going to where the people were.” He loved that the ministry pointed people to resources. He said, “We took a person in a very bad situation, and we put them on our bus and found out where they needed to go to get out of their situation.” Sometimes, it was finding needed documents or replacing documents. Sometimes it was convincing them to go to a family member’s home, detox for addiction, or connect them with their estranged kids.

“Like an old-school operator, everybody on the street has a different reason why they’re

there. We have to kind of unravel some of those tangles.” For Austin, it is all about asking the

right questions. For example, they found a man in Cincinnati living in a tent the day before the

IWU visit for this interview. Austin approached the man and knew the right question to ask. A

day later, he was on a bus to Colorado to be connected to his mother again.

 

In 2007, Austin was listening to Tommy Barnett, founder of the LA Dream Center, and

Austin felt he received a vision directly from God. He felt God wanted him to get a bus in all major cities of the US. Austin took the vision seriously and began to work to see his efforts multiply. Austin and his wife stayed in New York City for four years, working alongside the

Stoltzfuses. In 2011, with the City Relief ministry as a model, Austin and his wife multiplied the

model in Dallas as Metro Relief. Using a bus to go to people in need, Austin began seeing success stories.

 

Today, Austin has 13 employees. He uses 8 mobile case workers who are “street educated.” Some have degrees, but his most relentless and helpful employees are those who have lived homeless, been helped by Austin, and work to help others to succeed. Through Metro Relief 250 homeless people have gone “home” in the last year. Austin defines home as 90 days off the street in a stable location.

The vision of multiplying his ministry in other cities is becoming a reality. The Metro Relief model is currently being used in Michigan through More Than a Bus Ministry, in Baltimore through Helping Up Missions, and in Columbus through Columbus Relief. More cities are on the horizon of his vision and Austin has sights on a global influence in the future. 

Despite anticipating a global impact, Austin keeps it very, very personal. “I think relationships matter so much.” His background was “a mixed bag of support” but contained people who saw potential in him. People around Austin wanted to help. Mike Munday and Brad Ott helped through friendship; Terry Munday, along with other men from College Wesleyan Church, bridged the economic gap and guided Austin through discipleship. These relationships offered stability, strength, and the potential for Austin to find success in life and ministry. 

His relationships from home also made an impact. Always inspired by his mother, Austin presses forward to help those most vulnerable find housing. This part of his story, knowing the life of poverty and experiencing the sudden loss of his mother through murder, drives him forward to help people in hard places. The need is great, but Austin’s inspiration is greater. 

He cannot make the impact alone, however. The greatest needs today for Metro Relief are influence, people, and planters. They are looking for people who will carry out their mission to invest in culture, values, and language to help those in need get the resources most helpful to them. “I’ve been successful because we’ve encouraged other outreaches to do what we’re doing.” Metro Relief is looking for people with an entrepreneurial spirit, people who care about the homeless and know of a place to plant people who will love the homeless and work hard.” 

 

“It takes a special person, but we’ve found a few of them.” The ministry is heavy on outreach, light on administration. Austin laughs at his casual marketing slogan, “Trade your suits for boots.” So far, eight mobile case managers have done just that. These people are educated with degrees, but the best education for Metro Relief work is heavy on lessons from the streets. Offices with desks and files can’t do the work of Metro Relief. When mobile case managers are hired, they go out with a cell phone, iPad, boots, and a backpack. They are “boots on the ground” case workers.

Terry Munday counts Austin a success because of, “…all the people he meets on a day-to-day basis in Fort Worth or Dallas…” Each person has a story and Austin, and his staff take the time to listen. Like Terry invested in Austin at a difficult juncture in life, Austin is now investing in the lives of people, one at a time. He listens to his or her story and then find needed resources to get each person back at home and off the streets.

Like a great movie plot, Austin Bonds’ life is coming around, full circle. He continually emphasized the importance of people investing in his life as the contributing factor to his faith story. Now, Austin can be a person, investing and believing in people to bring them out of homelessness and into homes. His experiences with people investing in him as a youth helps him to underscore the importance of the human story to his case workers as they approach people in need. He was once in need and the people of IWU and College Wesleyan Church guided him into an everlasting answer. Now Austin is offering the same in Dallas and spreading the influence of his ministry and the power of the human story to cities across the nation.

austin@metrorelief.org
Photo of Charlie Leavitt

Charlie Leavitt

Executive Director for DFW

Charlie came to Metro Relief after being Executive Director of a transitional living nonprofit. Before that, he volunteered for various homeless ministries and had a men’s group in Hutchins State Prison.

Charlie has a desire to see lives changed through the Gospel and by providing practical services that assist friends to get off the streets and back into society. The two scriptures that motivate him are below.

Jesus shook them back to reality when he commanded confidently, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:44).

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. (Luke 10:33).

Charlie has been married 32 years and has two adult children.

charlie@metrorelief.org
Photo of Bryan Doyle

Bryan Doyle

Development Director

Bryan started his career in the non-profit leadership in the United Kingdom. He has lived in Africa, Europe, and the United States. His expertise has led him to craft projects in over 40 counties worldwide. He came to Texas in 2007. 


Bryan’s 34 years of experience ranges from serving as an ordained senior pastor, volunteer mission coordinator, consultant, executive director, and development director. 

He has created international partnerships focused on homelessness, education, poverty engagement, refugee care and justice initiatives. One of Bryan’s many skills includes being a visionary communicator.

He brings his extensive set of skills to an already existing top-notch tea at Metro Relief. 

A sought after speaker and leadership consultant, Bryan is married to Tracy and they have three grown children, Shannon, Kayleigh and Calvin.


bryan@metrorelief.org
Photo of Stacy Kennedy

Stacy Kennedy

Human Resource Director

Originally from Canandaigua New York, Stacy has been involved with Metro Relief since 2012. She began her time with MR as a volunteer, giving her time by cutting hair for the homeless on the Friday Bus Outreach to Fort Worth. In 2013 she started on staff as the bookkeeper.

Today, Stacy wears many hats. She is one of our many Mobile Case Managers, the Administrative Assistant to our CEO, and the Director of Human Resources. 

Stacy is resourceful in her approach to finding solutions for those who are experiencing homelessness. She has a big heart and works tirelessly to help our friends living on the streets.

stacy@metrorelief.org
Photo of Melissa McCombs

Melissa McCombs

Finance Director

Melissa first volunteered at Metro Relief in 2015 with her church, First Baptist of Melissa. She continued to come on a regular basis with her church and continued volunteering on her own.

She began leading the Outreach Bus and helped to facilitate connections with our friends on the street. 

In 2020, Melissa joined Metro Relief full time as a Mobile Case Manager and part-time bookkeeper. She started full-time in 2021 as the Director of Finance.

Melissa has been married to her husband, Marshall, for over 27 years and they have three children.

melissa@metrorelief.org

DFW Team

Photo of Paul Ponthieux

Paul Ponthieux

Director of Outreach

Paul was born and raised in Huntington Beach, California. For 10 years he lived on and off the streets, sleeping on the beach, on friends' couches, or in parks. 

The entire time he was on the streets, as well as 7 years before he became homeless, he was addicted to drugs. In 2019 he moved to Texas to get sober! Afterwards, he worked at and ran a detox center at City Hospital White Rock for a year until he found Metro Relief in 2021. His heart is focused to further help others that are in the same situation he used to be in.

Paul has a heart for the hurting and broken. He is usually the first to volunteer to help even the most difficult of cases. He knows what it’s like to be where they are and can empathize with their situation. 

paul@metrorelief.org
Photo of Holly Self

Holly Self

Housing Team Lead

Holly Self started at Metro in 2012 by volunteering with her son as a part of the organization YMSL (Young Men Service League) - Cities by the Lake. They continued to volunteer together until 2014. She then became a part of volunteer staff with Metro Relief, running the mobile food pantry in partnership with Serenity Church-Metro until June 2018 when she went to work for MHMR Tarrant County. Holly came on staff full time with Metro Relief in January of 2022. 

Holly holds a Recovery Support Peer Specialist Certificate (RSPS-C) as well as a Community Health Worker Certification (CHW-C). She is currently a student at The University of North Texas where she is studying to obtain her bachelors as a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) and minoring in Criminal Justice.

Doing whatever it takes to help others, Holly exhibits kindness, love, and compassion in her work.  

holly@metrorelief.org
Photo of Alex Wendt

Alex Wendt

Mobile Case Manager/Housing Navigator

Alex Wendt was born and raised in Dallas, TX. She is happily married with two amazing children and enjoys riding motorcycles with her husband all over Texas.

As a teenager and into her adult years, Alex struggled on and off with alcohol and drug addiction. However, she turned her life over to God and has since overcome her struggles. For 13 years, Alex worked as a bartender, but her life transformed when she discovered Metro Relief while doing community service. Through completing community service for her probation, she fell in love with the volunteer work and the organization. When her community service was over, she was offered a job at Metro Relief and started as a mobile case manager in October of 2022.

Alex has a deep compassion for those who struggle with addiction, as it runs in her family. Working with the team at Metro Relief has been a fulfilling experience for her, as they all share the same passion for helping those who are truly in need. She is grateful for the opportunity to make a positive impact in her community.

alex@metrorelief.org
Photo of Kat Harrel

Kat Harrel

Mobile Case Manager

Kat Harrel was born in Denver, Colorado and moved to Texas when she was 6 years old. Through her life she has struggled with drug addiction and mental illness.

She is a survivor of domestic violence and was on the verge of experiencing homelessness with her children. 

Through Gateway Church she started volunteering at Metro Relief in January of 2023. Kat soon moved on staff in May of the same year and is currently one of the Mobile Case Managers and Housing Navigators. 

“Working at Metro gives me the chance to help those who are less fortunate, these are people I can relate to in one way or another. My passion has always been wanting to help people and this gives me the chance to do what I feel God has had planned for me all along.”

kat@metrorelief.org
Photo of Amber Allen

Amber Allen

Mobile Case Manager/Housing Navigator

Amber Allen was born and raised in The Colony TX and started at Metro Relief in 2023. She is one of our Mobile Case Managers and Housing Navigators. 

Amber considers herself blessed to be able to assist so many people in getting an ID and Birth Certificate, diverting them to drug treatment or sober living, and/or navigating them into a new home. In her personal life, mental health and drug addiction have been a part of her life since birth. She is glad to know that mental health and drug addictions are beginning to be understood and better managed. That those who face these health problems, who were not aware of it or had no support, now have opportunities to get the help they need. 

“Being able to love on all our friends on the streets is a privilege and a blessing and I wouldn't choose any other career path. I thank God for sending me to Metro Relief to be a part of something so beautiful and rewarding.”

amber@metrorelief.org
Photo of Joshua Jacob

Joshua Jacob

Mobile Case Manager/Housing Navigator

Born in Garland, Texas, Josh Jacobs left Dallas for Boston in 2008. In 2005 he had dedicated his life to working with music and had no plans to do anything else. Having put all his energy into pursuing music, Josh was running on fumes. 

He then made the decision to make the move back to Dallas. While here, he would occasionally have a gig to play but became apathetic to the world around him. 

In December 2022, things started changing. A church in Garland hired Josh as the worship leader, and it was there that he heard about Metro Relief. He participated on a service opportunity and saw the dark underbelly of the homeless epidemic in Dallas. It startled him, how homelessness, mental health and drug addiction was ravaging human beings made in the image of God. 

Josh then made the decision to turn in his resume and is now one of our Mobile Case Managers and Housing Navigators. 

joshua@metrorelief.org
Photo of Jayme Gowins

Jayme Gowins

Administrative Assistant

I have lived in Allen, Texas with my husband and two kids since 2012, and have been working for the nonprofit world for the last eleven years. 

Growing up, there was some childhood trauma and painful circumstances in my mom’s illness that sent a ripple effect and highlighted some underlying generational coping skills in my immediate family. This led to helplessness and lostness in me that turned into anger, bitterness, regret, and depression. 

In 2019, our family switched churches and that’s where I encountered Jesus. You know what? I learned that I had been blind my entire life to His peace that surpasses all understanding. I started to see the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection in the healing of my heart through a string of weeks of encounter that completely changed the trajectory of my life. The weight started to lift off, and I learned how to forgive, how to trust, how to love. 

Last year, I lost a dear friend to accidental overdose, and that propelled me into a boldness to start to strategize how I can make a difference and make my life have purpose. I felt God moving me into a new role, and thankfully, that is how I learned about Metro Relief. I look forward to the blessings that I will see in Metro, and am ready to be obedient to whatever God wants me to do. 


jayme@metrorelief.org
Photo of Kristen Michaels

Kristen Michaels

Coordinator for Events/Advocacy

Kristen serves the vital role of advocacy for Metro Relief. Wonderfully gifted in Events Management and planning.  She oversees the coordination of certain events, including our Annual Night of Hope each November. Kristen serves alongside our staff in sharing the Metro story and inviting others to participate in supporting Metro Relief.


kristen@metrorelief.org
Photo of Ellen Stitzer

Ellen Stitzer

Coordinator for Development/Volunteers

Ellen came from Pennsylvania to the wild west on advice from her father. She spent 50 years in the food industry as a certified chef, restaurant developer and foodie entrepreneur. She has a heart for God, people, travel and seafood. Her daughter and grandson share a home with her and her son and daughter in law live in New York. As an active volunteer in leadership, youth ministry and food pantries she brings a unique skill set to Metro Relief.  


ellen@metrorelief.org

Team Detail Content