Newsroom

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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A place for families: the Dove Springs community

As Austin grows, many neighborhoods are becoming more predominantly headed by single professionals or other household structures – but Dove Springs remains a place for families. Unfortunately, our friends and neighbors struggle with unemployment and health care challenges, and are still recovering from last year’s flooding.    Dove Springs is a younger community with many families and a growing Hispanic/Latino population The Dove Springs community has very strong Hispanic and Latino roots. The neighborhood has largely been settled by the Hispanic and Latino population for more than a decade and currently 4 out of 5 residents claim that ethnicity. Unlike other neighborhoods that have more seniors, students or young professionals without children, Dove Springs is full of families – which are define by the US census as a household with two or more people related by birth, marriage or adoption. A lower percentage of family households in Dove Springs are married-couple families (59 percent vs. 68 percent in Austin overall) and a higher percentage are headed by single fathers (13 percent vs. 9 percent) or single mothers (29 percent vs. 22 percent), similar to the St. John’s and Manor communities.  People who live in Dove Springs are also typically younger than other City of Austin residents with a full third of residents being under the age of 18.   Many Dove Springs residents are struggling with unemployment  Over the last couple of years, the unemployment rate for Dove Springs has been higher than the unemployment rate in the City of Austin: Dove Springs residents […]

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Making Ends Meet in Manor

Meet the Maldonado Family – they live in the Manor area in Austin, Far East on 290. Benito, Sr. and Leonor are parents to Benito, Jr. (15,) Brenda (12) and Blue Emmy (1 mo.) Like the Salazar Family, they face a unique set of economic challenges and rely on their community for support. Benito, Sr. works two jobs to make ends meet for the family, but it can still be a struggle to manage everyday expenses in addition to the cost of housing and utilities. It takes about fifty thousand dollars for just a family of four to break even in Austin, so the Maldonados rarely have enough money at the end of the month after covering their rent, food, childcare, car insurance, bills and more. The Maldonados aren’t alone – half of all people in the Manor neighborhood spend 1/3 or more of their income on housing. And as temperatures rise during the blistering Texas summer, it can be tricky to keep up with high utility bills. Luckily, the Maldonado family is able to utilize our Navigation Center, where dialing 2-1-1 will connect them to local resources that can help them pay these high bills so that their utilities are not disconnected.  $50K For a family of four to break even in Austin 50%  Renters in Manor who spend 1/3 or more of income on housing The Maldonados have considered using payday loans when they’re behind on bills, but this can cost them $1,000’s in annual fees to predatory […]

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Austin’s growth in focus: the Manor community

As Austin continues to grow, certain corners of our city are seeing huge influxes – and the Manor community is one of them. Since the turn of the millennium, the population in Manor has tripled.    Manor residents are increasingly young and non-white From 2000 to 2012 Manor saw particularly strong growth in its Hispanic and African-American populations, especially compared with the city as a whole.      Moreover, more than a third of Manor residents are under the age of 18 – a 30 percent growth from 2000 to 2012. Much like in St. John’s, many of these residents are low-income.      Manor residents are reaching out for help 13 percent more times this year than last Manor is one of many suburban zip codes in Travis County that has increasingly been reaching out for help to our Navigation Center.  [Tweet “Calls for help to @uwatx from Manor in 2014 are up 13 percent over the first six months of 2013.”] The changing populations are reflected in the types of calls that we receive: callers from Manor are more likely to report health needs or needs related to children than the average 2-1-1 caller. The types of needs being reported to 2-1-1 from the Manor community make sense when considering that the population of economically disadvantaged children at Manor high school alone has tripled along with the population.   Manor residents own their homes and are employed, but services are lacking and housing costs are a burden Overall, our […]

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It takes a lot to thrive as a working family

This is the Salazar family – they live in the St. John’s neighborhood in Austin, near the intersection of I-35 and 183. Like many Austin families, they juggle many challenges – tight budgets, long hours and trying to provide the best for their family – so the Salazars need support from their community. Claudia, the mother, decided to stay at home to care for their children and avoid the high costs of child care while her husband provides for the family by fixing cars. Between transportation to get to work on time, food, bills and rent – there’s barely enough left at the end of each paycheck. During the summer especially, as the temperatures rise, so do water and electric bills – so a time that most families enjoy together is a time of stress in the Salazar home as their finances get even tighter. The Salazars have even considered taking out payday loans just to get along – but these can cost thousands in fees and leave them with even more challenges. But the Salazars can turn to United Way to access safer banking options so they can avoid payday lenders – or call our Navigation Center to connect to summer food programs.  In a couple of years, their daughter Kylie will enter middle school where many students begin to fall behind. The Salazar’s know that for Kylie to stay on the path to graduation, she’ll need support from both of them, she’ll need to not worry about food or how she’ll get […]

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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][/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 […]

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