Hidden in plain sight: the unique St. John’s neighborhood

Over the last decade in Austin, the population has been rapidly growing, jobs have been plentiful and organic, fresh food has seen a boom. But that story isn’t the same across all of Austin’s neighborhoods. 

In the St. John’s neighborhood, the population has decreased by 5 percent since 2000 – a phenomenon that, although surprising, is actually not unique as people increasingly settle in the suburban and rural areas of our region. Yet although the population is smaller, the face of the community has changed somewhat significantly.

An extremely high (and growing) percentage of St. Johns residents are Hispanic:

[cta]Growth in Hispanic Population in Austin & St. John's[/cta]

Unique from the City of Austin, the St. Johns community has seen growth in its Black and African American population. Blacks and African Americans now represent one out of every seven St. Johns residents. Across the City of Austin the Black and African American population has generally been declining in size, so this growth in St. Johns is particularly notable.

The St. John’s area stood out from the rest of Austin in a few more ways: 

  • St. Johns has seen a slight decrease in the percentage of its population that is under the age of 18 (down to 22 percent in 2012 from 24% in 2000). This is likely related to the overall growth in population outside of the City as families with children are more likely to relocate to suburban and rural areas because of relative housing affordability.
  • Families in the St. Johns area are less likely to be headed up by married couples and more likely to be led by single parents than other family households in Austin. Forty-eight percent of families in St. Johns were headed up by a single parent compared to 31% of families across the City of Austin. 
  • Unemployment rates are also higher in St. Johns. Nine percent of the St. Johns population (ages 16 and over) were unemployed in 2012 compared to 7 percent of the overall City of Austin population.  

But more than anything, St. Johns residents of every age group are more likely to be living in poverty or to be low-income than overall City of Austin residents and this challenge is reflected in the young population and their subsequent success in school. 

[cta]Poverty in St. John's (Austin) among students[/cta]

Over the last decade, the economically disadvantaged student population has grown by 32 percent at Reagan High School, by 11 percent at Webb Middle School, and by 2 percent at Pickle Elementary. Overall, the neighborhood has a median family income of less than $36,000.

Of the needs that St. Johns residents expressed to the UWATX Navigation Center, the vast majority were basic needs services and health care, on track with trends overall. While many residents are reaching out to 2-1-1 with food needs, the community still has a relatively low percentage of residents that actually receive SNAP (15 percent), likely because they are unaware of benefits, unable to complete the long process to apply and maintain benefits or the fact that offices that assist with enrollment typically keep inflexible 9-5 business hours which is problematic for people who are not able to take time off of work.

But there are also some challenges that St. John’s residents face that are familiar to all of us – including challenges with housing and transportation:

[cta]St. John's (Austin) stats[/cta]

The St. Johns area has not experienced the relatively prosperity that has become the perceived norm in the City of Austin and if we don’t take steps within the neighborhood then we can expect that the residents of this community will likely be driven out.  That’s why UWATX has focused our efforts on St. John’s, along with Manor and Dove Springs, as three critical neighborhoods in Austin that we must work together to support. 

There is a lot of opportunity to help this community to thrive and the number of calls that our 2-1-1 Navigation Center receives from the 78752 zip code indicates that residents are willing to advocate for themselves

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