Urgent Issues Action Plan



Service providers in Austin are all painfully aware of the variety of human needs and the widespread effects of poverty that exist within our city and county. Travis County continues to have a poverty rate of over 12% (Census Bureau estimate, 1999). Persistent poverty, combined with steady increases in the cost of living, has served to increase the demand for emergency basic needs assistance.

In most cases, income eligibility guidelines for basic needs are extremely low and prevent all but the most impoverished from receiving assistance. For those who do receive assistance, it is rarely more than a few times a year. Although these limits do help stretch available resources to serve more customers, they severely limit the ability of the customer to achieve self-sufficiency. In addition, it is difficult to access services during evenings and weekends. There is also little capacity to provide case management that could link basic needs assistance with other services that could facilitate the achievement of self-sufficiency. And finally, most basic needs providers have informal referral relationships with others, but few have formal arrangements that could ease the paperwork and time burden on recipients.
The following is a summary of some strategies and suggestions for addressing these issues.


INCREASE INVOLVEMENT IN NEIGHBORHOOD ASSISTANCE CLUSTERS. Neighborhood assistance clusters are faith-based communities, public social service agencies, and non-profit organizations working in collaboration with each other to provide more comprehensive and case managed assistance.

INCREASE INFORMATION SHARING AMONG PROVIDERS. This shift requires social service providers to form collaborative partnerships, take a case management approach to dealing with those seeking help, and create a centralized communication/referral link among social service providers.


EDUCATE COMMUNITY AND FUNDERS ABOUT BASIC NEEDS ISSUES. This will require changes in attitudes, a greater accountability in behavior on the part of our community and our civic/religious leadership, and a willingness to stop blaming those in poverty for their economic difficulties.

MAKE BASIC NEEDS SERVICES A FUNDING PRIORITY. While a greater financial investment is required within our community to provide both emergency support and programs that promote self-reliance, it is difficult to determine what size of investment we now need to adequately address these social equity initiatives. Our social service community needs a better picture of the level of client needs and capabilities, along with a more comprehensive understanding of the resources now available in our community.

IDENTIFY WHERE NEW RESOURCES COULD BE APPLIED. Social service organizations need to adjust funding (and therefore eligibility) for Basic Needs services to allow for long-term care/case management. This approach will help individuals and families become as self-sufficient and self-reliant as possible.

The Community Action Network Basic Needs Assessment discusses the basic needs service delivery system currently in place, outlines the barriers in the system, and offers recommendations for improving basic needs service delivery in the Austin area. Recommendations from the Basic Needs Assessment were summarized, and a group of almost 40 people came together to form two Basic Needs planning groups - the Provider Collaboration Group, and the Advocacy Group. Members represent non-profit organizations, City and County government, faith-based organizations, and planning organizations.

The attached matrix presents the urgent issues, solutions, and recommended actions. Programs that address the problem are named, and opportunities for investments are listed. The Community's task is to expand the availability and accessibility of basic needs services, and promote self-sufficiency for Travis County residents. The matrix is intended to be a straightforward tool to help with those tasks. The solutions and action steps attached to this report are intended to include and provide relief for extremely low-income households.

The Basic Needs Planning Committee is the contact for the Basic Needs objectives. Contact the Committee through Joy Stollings at (512) 708-4466.

2001 Urgent Issues Action Plan Home Page