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
INCREASE COLLABORATION AND INFORMATION SHARING AMONG SERVICE PROVIDERS
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.
INCREASE RESOURCES DIRECTED TOWARD BASIC NEEDS 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 BASIC NEEDS PLANNING PROCESS
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 BASIC NEEDS PLANNING MATRIX
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