Category: Navigation Center

Free Educational Summer Activities for Children

Think about when you take time off of work to go on vacation. It can be hard to get back in the groove of things when you return; this is similar to what your kids experience when they have time off from school. When school is out of session, many children struggle to find educational opportunities in the summer months. According to the National Summer Learning Association, research spanning 100 years show that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer break than they do on the same tests at the beginning of summer break (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004). It is critical for kids to keep their minds active to avoid the summer learning loss that so many children unfortunately experience. Summer is actually a great time to strengthen a child’s academic skills while still balancing other nonacademic fun summer activities. Here is a diverse list of FREE educational summer activities for your kids to enjoy this summer that will help prevent digression in their academic skills: Literacy Luau at Bright Horizons at Round Rock On Saturday, July 18th from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Bright Horizons at Round Rock is offering a Hawaiian-themed event that will include storytelling using Smart board technology, family-oriented literacy activities and a hula dance performance from Island Rhythms Hula Company. Parents can also learn how to document literacy for all ages! Summer Playgrounds Program  Summer Playgrounds is a drop-in program providing quality recreational experiences that […]

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Top Community Needs By District

Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away by the many great things Austin has to offer: parks, restaurants, concerts and local shops. If you live in a nice neighborhood, you likely aren’t thinking about how others, who may live near you but are struggling to make ends meet, are experiencing the same city in a completely different way. Using data collected from the 327,935 calls our Navigation Center received in 2014, we found the top community needs in each district. The top four needs were overwhelmingly the same for each district: Food stamps/SNAP, followed by Medicaid application, and rent and electric payment assistance. Below, we’ve listed other data that stuck out from our analysis: District one zip code 78701’s call volume increased 16% from the year before. Additionally, four zip codes in this district are within the top 10 zip codes that contacted our Navigation Center the most in 2014: 78702, 78723, 78724 and 78753. District six had the highest ratio of housing related needs, from Section 8 vouchers to help locating homeless shelters. In district seven, two zip codes are in the top ten zip codes that called for assistance: 78753 and 78758. Within these two zip codes, the call ratio per person is very high; there was one call per every five people living in these zip codes. Zip code 78701’s call volume in district nine increased 16% from the year before. Additionally, one zip code in this district is in the top 10 zip codes that contacted our […]

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Free Summer Meals for Kids

Summer vacation is a time that most children look forward to, but summer can also mean something different for the children who rely on school in order to receive regular meals. Because of this, the summer break can be detrimental to low-income children. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Texas is one of the top thirteen states to receive intensive technical assistance to expand the reach of summer meal programs. This is because Texas is currently experiencing high levels of rural/urban food insecurity and reduced program participation. Over 23 million children rely on free and reduced-price meals provided by National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs throughout the school year. However, only a small portion–3.8 million–participates in the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program. By creating the Summer Food Service Program, the USDA hopes to minimize this gap in order to ensure that children are receiving the meals they need. Fortunately, there are various locations in the Austin community where eligible children and teens ages 18 and below can find facilities that can provide them with free meals while school is out of session. The Summer Meal Site Finder is a mapping tool provided by the USDA that shows local sites that provide meals through the Summer Food Service Program. Distance, days of operation, times and the types of meals being served are some of the details provided by the finder tool. Every day parents, teachers and educational staff members worry for the children that do not have […]

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It’s Tax Return Season!

For some people, it”s the most wonderful time of the year–tax return season! What could be better than the government paying YOU?! The actual process of preparing your taxes–not so wonderful. Whether you”re just out of college and filing for the first time on your own, or have multiple jobs and are having trouble keeping track of it all, we have some great resources to make it easier for you. The deadline to file taxes with the IRS is April 15th. United Way for Greater Austin partners with Foundation Communities to provide tax preparation services through Community Tax Centers. If you earn $50,000 or less annually (slightly higher for households of more than five people), you qualify for free tax preparation! Last year, these Community Tax Centers (CTC) filed 20,000 returns for local individuals and families and generated $36 million in refunds. You can either make casino online an appointment with a CTC volunteer or walk-in, or even drop off your documents to be prepared and pick them up a few days later. Call 2-1-1 today to find the nearest tax preparation location to you or visit the Foundation Communities for more details. Prepare for your appointment by using this checklist to make sure you have all of the documents you will need in order to file. Already received your return? Use our Bank Locator tool to locate a bank close to you to make the most of your return. Feeling generous with all of your newfound cash? Consider making a donation so we can continue to support services like the Community Tax Centers!

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2-1-1 Call Data Shows Community Needs and Trends for Greater Austin

Happy February 11th, or as we like to say at United Way for Greater Austin, “Happy 2-1-1 Day!” Each year, 2-1-1 resource centers around the country celebrate this day and aim to raise awareness about the importance of the service. Since 1996, our Navigation Center has served the Greater Austin community as an access point for health and human services referrals. We are able to quickly and privately connect those in need of assistance to nonprofit and government resources, as well as track the needs and trends of the community as a whole with each call. The UWATX Navigation Center celebrates 2-1-1 Day by releasing an annual “Community Needs and Trends Report,” a compilation of data reflecting the scope of needs within our community throughout the year. View the complete report for 2014 here. The most recent data showcases the suburbanization of poverty in our region. While 2-1-1 call volume stabilized in Central and East Austin, we saw a significant increase in call volume from outlying areas, including Pflugerville, Manor, San Marcos and portions of Bastrop County. We aren’t the only ones noticing this trend. According to the Brookings Institute, “There has been a 143% increase in suburban poverty in the Austin metro area over the last decade.” Of the 327,935 calls answered in 2014, 79% of callers were female. We know that single parent-headed households are more likely to live in poverty than dual income households. The majority of callers were between 20 to 50-years-old, indicating that it is the working […]

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UT Austin Students Win $100,000 to Build and Launch 2-1-1 App

Need help finding access to temporary housing, food banks or health services? You can always call 2-1-1 at anytime–but soon there will also be an app for that. A team of University of Texas at Austin students spent last fall developing a smartphone app called “CallScout,” designed to help Austin residents have easier access to social services information. VP of UWATX’s 2-1-1 Navigation Center, Kay Garza, said this app is an important step to bringing information to more low-income individuals because they are more likely to have phone internet access than home internet access. The project took these 12 students to New York in January, where they competed against student teams from other schools, such as Stanford and UC Berkeley, for the grand $100,000 Watson University Competition prize—and won! The app uses Watson technology developed by IBM. Watson is a supercomputer that can quickly sift through large amounts of information to answer complex questions, keeping “in mind” natural speech nuances. CallScout allows users to ask Watson a complete question, i.e. “Where can I find food for my family?” The app will then list nearest food pantries based on the user’s location, along with contact information, hours of service and user reviews. It also allows users to create their own review of the service received, so others using the app may see useful information when choosing a service to best fit their needs. The UT Austin students created a video showing exactly how the CallScout app will function. The Navigation Center […]

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Looking for a warm meal this holiday season?

Our Navigation Center often experiences an increase in call volume during the holiday season from individuals and families experiencing food insecurity. Many Greater Austin residents are looking for a meal during the colder months of the year that will warm their stomaches and spirits. We’ve compiled this calendar of resources that are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC to make it easier to find that warm meal! Click on the image above to see a larger version PDF. Do you know someone looking for assistance to secure things like food, housing, health care, counseling, child care, employment or government assistance? Tell them to give us a call at 2-1-1 to get connected to local resources in the community.

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Census Data Reveals Dramatic Increase In Poverty for Bastrop County

For the first time since the Bastrop wildfires in late 2011, census data is confirming what many already know – there is great community need in Bastrop County. The number of people living in poverty in Bastrop County has doubled (7,783 to 16,698!) There is a decrease in the number of residents that are of working age and an increase in more vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly.  The poverty rate in Bastrop County was relatively stable (11-12%) over the last decade, but the most recent census data shows that now 23% of Bastrop County residents (nearly one in four) are living in poverty. The number of homeowners in Bastrop County declined, and there are now more renters than in the past. Renters are more likely than homeowners to be cost burdened and pay a third or more of their income on housing. United Way for Greater Austin knows that individuals and families who have limited expendable income may have difficulty making ends meet. Luckily, our Navigation Center is able to connect them to local resources like rent and utility assistance or food resources simply by dialing 2-1-1.  To date, Bastrop County continues to rank second in per capita calls to 2-1-1 out of our ten county region, second only to Travis County. This year, a higher percentage of 2-1-1 callers from Bastrop are requesting basic needs assistance and health resources than in 2013 (79% vs. 73%).  UWATX continues to serve the community through a variety of Strategic Programs and involvement in at-risk communities, such as Manor, Dove […]

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The Other Side of Austin: Census Data Reveals Continued Poverty

Austin Residents Struggle to Make Ends Meet 300K+  individuals struggling to make ends meet   150K+ Austin residents living in poverty   16K+ local children under the age of 6 living in poverty   Austin is a city that is known for many things. We love our dogs, can’t get enough live music or Tex-Mex, and take pride in the slogan, ‘Keep Austin Weird.’ We are also the fastest-growing city in the nation – more than 100 people move to Austin every day. What many are unaware of is that more than 300K greater Austin residents are classified as low-income and face barriers to economic opportunity.  This is a serious concern for many families who struggle to make ends meet – it takes a household income of $50K annually for a family of four to break even! According to the most recent census data, 150K+ Austin residents live below the federal poverty level. Of these, more than 16K residents are children who are under the age of 6.   UWATX Helps Alleviate and Reduce Poverty    UWATX addresses community needs through our Strategic Programs including: Financial Opportunity, Target Graduation and Success By 6.  We know that preparing children for kindergarten and keeping them on the path to high school graduation is a strong indicator for their success down the road. We also provide financial literacy tools for their parents, so that both generations can thrive simultaneously. Our Navigation Center is able to connect individuals who call 2-1-1 to human services, […]

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Community Spotlight: Dove Springs

A Neighborhood in Need The Wynn Family lives in Dove Springs, an Austin neighborhood that is southeast of the intersections of I-35 and Ben White, near the airport. The Dove Springs community has a unique set of needs and relies heavily on community services. In fact, one out of every five individuals in Dove Springs uses SNAP to meet their food needs. 20% of Dove Springs relies on SNAP for food needs Anisha and David Wynn are the proud parents of four children, Kayla (13,) D’Maree (8,) D’Maya (5) and De’Ana (3.) To support their family, Anisha and David both work full-time for The City of Austin, each logging as many as 60-hours-per-week. However, making ends meet can still be a challenge. In Austin, a family of four has to make an average of fifty thousand dollars per year just to break even. With the expenses of groceries, rent, child care, car insurance and gas, this family of five has an even tighter budget and there’s rarely enough at the end of the month to save. UWATX Connects Families to Resources Anisha and David worry about what a lack of fiscal security could mean for them in the long run, and what they’ll do if an emergency occurs. Many Austin families, much like the Wynns, are only a few unexpected expenses away from falling behind on their bills. Should a car break down or a child become injured, they may be unable to recover financially. Fortunately, they both work at companies where […]

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