Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Austin Making Progress Towards Establishing Resilience Hubs

 

First citywide feedback meeting is Thursday, Oct. 6

The City of Austin is taking steps to launch a network of Resilience Hubs. The first citywide feedback meeting is this Thursday, October 6. Residents will be able to learn about resources for strengthening neighborhood and provide input on the Resilience program. This feedback will help determine where to place resilience hubs and ensure these spaces are designed and programed to meet the needs of the community.
 
The community feedback meeting will be held at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex (East Room) - 1156 Hargrave Street from 6 to 8 p.m. RSVP HERE to join virtually or in person.
 
Residents can also visit the newly launched Austin Resilience Hub Network website to share feedback online and learn about other ways to get involved.
 
The City of Austin is working alongside agency and community partners to activate six pilot hubs later in 2022. They will eventually form part of a citywide Resilience Hub Network of community-focused physical facilities that offer a variety of day-to-day services and support the community before, during, and after a disaster.  

Resilience Hubs are intended to complement emergency response and operations, not replace them. While some Hubs can offer information, accessible bathrooms, and cell phone charging, others can be activated to shelter residents and provide food and water during an emergency.

During non-emergencies, Resilience Hubs can equitably enhance community resilience by offering resources and community-building activities year-round. These trusted spaces can help strengthen neighborhoods and empower local communities.
 
The development of a network of resilience hubs follows City Council resolution to “work with communities to conduct a resilience hub assessment to identify potential locations throughout the City to serve as resilience hubs, including schools, recreation centers, libraries, and other trusted, well-known, community-managed facilities.”

District 3 Candidate Forum

 

Thursday, October 6 at 6 p.m. 

On Thursday, October 6, 2022, the City of Austin is sponsoring the City Council Candidate Forum for District 3, allowing residents to learn more about the candidates running for the open City Council seat.
 
The City of Austin, the City's Ethics Review Commission and the League of Women Voters Austin Area, will sponsor six City Council Candidate Forums for City Council candidates competing in the November 8 election. Council Districts that will be electing Council Members are Districts 1, 3, 5, 8, 9 and Mayor. The other districts will be chosen in 2024.  

The event will be an opportunity for Austinites to listen to candidates express their views so audience members can understand candidates' positions and make an informed voting decision. The candidates will serve the remaining term of the office being vacated.

The forum for District 3 will begin at 6 p.m. at Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center - 808 Nile St. The community can also tune in live at ATXN.TV (ENG & SPA), cable TV channel 6, and AT&T U-Verse channel 99, and on streaming apps. The forum can also be heard live on KAZI FM 88.7 in English. Language Interpretation via Telephone will be provided in Spanish, Mandarin, and Vietnamese (Dial 1-855-756-7520 ext 83464# for English, 83465# for Spanish, 83466# for Mandarin, and 83467# for Vietnamese). For other language interpretation not provided for the forums, please call Austin 3-1-1 to request an interpreter at least 5 business days prior to the forum you wish to attend.
 
Austinites and Neighborhood Associations interested in suggesting a question to be asked of the candidates during the forums can email in any language to forum@lwvaustin.org or call 512-451-6710. Deadline is by 12pm (noon) the day of each forum event date. For more information about the Council Candidate Forums, visit AustinTexas.gov/CandidateForums.

To find out which district you live in, visit AustinTexas.gov/Government#FindDistrict.

To see a list of Council Candidates per district in the ballot, visit the Candidate Forums website.

For more information about the election process, visit AustinTexas.gov/Elections

Austin Water Seeks Community Feedback for Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project

Join Austin Water at an upcoming virtual or in-person community workshop to discuss Austin’s Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) project. ASR is a water supply strategy to store available water in an aquifer for later recovery and use. 
 
As work continues to determine the most favorable areas for an ASR project, the project team is seeking community feedback on evaluation criteria and how the project will incorporate equity and affordability considerations. At the workshops, staff will share information about Austin’s ASR project, collect community feedback and answer questions.  
 
In-Person Workshops
 
Workshop 1 

  • When: Tuesday, October 18 from 6 – 7:30 p.m.  
  • Where: Giddings Public Library and Cultural Center, 276 N Orange St, Giddings, TX 78942 
  • Register: bit.ly/3xWuERP  

Workshop 2 

  • When: Wednesday, October 19 from 6 – 7:30 p.m.  
  • Where: Bastrop Public Library, 1100 Church St, Bastrop, TX 78602 
  • Register: bit.ly/3DRH6WJ  

Workshop 3 

  • When: Thursday, October 20 from 6 – 7:30 p.m.  
  • Where: City of Austin Permitting and Development Center, 6310 Wilhelmina Delco Drive, Austin, TX 78752 

 
Virtual Workshops via Zoom  
 
Workshop 4 

  • When: Tuesday, October 25 from 5 – 6 p.m.  
  • Register: bit.ly/3SDgpt8 

Workshop 5 

  • When: Thursday, October 27 from 6 – 7 p.m.  
  • Register: bit.ly/3BKpB7X 

 
Interested residents from Travis, Bastrop and Lee counties are encouraged to attend. The same information will be presented at each meeting. Please attend the meeting that works best for you!
 
Visit the SpeakUp Austin! page for the latest ASR project updates and the opportunity to connect directly with the Austin Water ASR team.
 
To learn more, visit the project website at AustinTexas.gov/ASR and watch project videos in English and Spanish.


Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Austin Awards $20 Million in Community Contracts to Reduce Displacement Along Transit Corridors

The City of Austin’s Affordable Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) has awarded $20 million in Community Initiated Solutions funding to 14 area nonprofits to reduce residential displacement and create economic mobility opportunities for communities to be impacted by new rail and rapid bus routes along Project Connect transit corridors.  
 
“We look to these awards as effective investments to stabilize vulnerable residents,” said Nefertitti Jackmon, City of Austin Community Displacement Prevention Officer.
 
These funds are part of the voter-approved $300 million for transit-supportive anti-displacement housing strategies for Project Connect, a comprehensive transit plan including new rail service, new and expanded bus service with an anticipated all-electric bus fleet, new park and rides, and more. These funds support renter/tenant stabilization programs, expand and preserve homeownership opportunities, and undertake a variety of anti-displacement strategies.
 
All Project Connect anti-displacement funds will focus on preventing displacement in risk areas within one mile of transit lines.  Impacted communities will be able to access the funding and support announced today over the coming months. The City will share further information as it becomes available.

The awards were finalized during the AHFC meeting September 29. The recipients are: 
  • Goodwill Industries of Central Texas’ Connections to Work program ($2 million) will support economic mobility within impacted areas through workforce programs providing job training for living-wage positions; financial capability services; and direct rent/mortgage and utility relief for participants. 
  • Interfaith Action of Central Texas’ Financial Education & Literacy Program ($256,650) will provide financial education to vulnerable children, grades 6-12, and their families to help prepare them for a financially secure future. 
  • Meals on Wheels Central Texas’ Client Assistance Program ($900,000) will provide case management and financial assistance (including rent, utilities, mortgage, financial education, etc.) clients of Meals on Wheels Central Texas who are most at-risk of displacement. 
  • Austin Voices for Education and Youth’s North Austin/Rundberg Community Stabilization Project ($1,268,000) will use rent assistance for short-term stabilization, social work case-management, and workforce education, community building, advocacy and tenant rights education to increase long-term housing stability. 
  • Workers Defense Project’s Building and Strengthening Tenant Action Combatting Displacement Through Tenant and Worker Power ($2 million) will build tenant resiliency in Project Connect corridors by engaging renters in housing and economic justice organizing campaigns, leveraging Community Benefits Agreements to achieve tangible improvements, and building infrastructure to combat displacement. 
  • Catholic Charities of Central Texas’ Financial Stability Program ($1,924,000) will assist 150 households vulnerable to displacement through financial aid, long-term case management, financial literacy education, and wraparound services. 
  • Business & Community Lenders’ Austin CLT Accelerator ($2 million) will grow the capacity of nonprofits to increase community land trust availability and establish long-term affordable homeownership opportunities along Project Connect transit lines. 
  • El Buen Samaritano’s We Belong Here: Nuestros Hogares ($2 million) will assist tenants with rent and utilities, provide workforce and asset-building, implement cradle-career education, and strengthen cultural anchor capacity. 
  • Del Valle Community Coalition’s Homeowner Resilience Program ($1,100,000) will support Southeast Austin homeowners at risk of displacement by providing community investment and strategies to preserve and build wealth that are responsive to homeowner needs via counseling, advocacy capacity building, financial assistance, and educational homeowner resiliency events. 
  • Communities in School of Central Texas’ Student and Family Assistance: Relational, Timely Support to Prevent Housing Displacement ($1,500,000) will provide financial support to address housing insecurity, helping to stabilize students' home lives and preventing displacement of students to ultimately improve school performance, graduate, and achieve success in life.  
  • Austin Cooperative Business Foundation’s AsociaciĆ³nde Residentes’ AsociaciĆ³nde Residentes/North Lamar Anti-Displacement Improvements ($516,206) will fund health and safety improvements to the community and provide financial assistance to individual homeowners to address costly deferred home maintenance. 
  • The Life Anew Restorative Justice Incorporated's Anti-Displacement Property Ownership ($2 million) brings together a partnership of Life Anew Restorative Justice, The Langford Firm, and NeerGBuild and Design to educate homeowners on land ownership, estate planning, Zero Energy, financial literacy, and housing repairs. 
  • Austin Tenants Council’s Preserving, Asserting & Growing the Rights of Austin Tenants ($997,310) will help ensure housing stability by correcting Fair Housing Act violations and empowering tenants to exercise their rights through mediation, advocacy, and education. 
  • Mama Sana Vibrant Woman’s (MSVW) Rental Assistance for Families of Color in Austin's Eastern Crescent ($1,537,834) will support emergency rental assistance/eviction prevention grants to individuals who receive pregnancy, birthing, and/or postpartum services from MSVW or Austin's Maternal Health Equity Collaborative (MHEC). 
The Community Initiated Solutions was a funding process developed to center equity and expand opportunities so that people closest to the challenges can devise solutions to address community priorities.
 
“We’re excited that the community has responded with thoughtfully designed proposals that center community residents and address a myriad of displacement prevention tools to improve household stability and affordability,” said Nefertitti Jackmon, City of Austin Community Displacement Prevention Officer.  
 
"This is a historic initiative for our city, to leverage anti-displacement dollars over the next three years, with 14 organizations, addressing the needs of households with children living in poverty, financial literacy programs, expansion of community land trusts, estate planning programs, support for the expansion of home ownership opportunities, and more. Our department would not have been able to release such a robust array of programs all at once and have the same reach and impact as these organizations will have. This is what we can achieve, as a city, when we co-create with community,” Jackmon said. 
 
The review process consisted of three steps: First, an initial review to ensure the applications met the minimum requirements. Second, a community evaluation panel composed of practitioners, academics, and stakeholders from communities most impacted by displacement then reviewed, scored, and ranked the proposals using evaluation criteria informed by the Nothing About Us Without Us report and submitted their findings to the City’s Community Advisory Committee (CAC).​ Last, a working group of the CAC considered the balances between funding categories and recommended proposals for funding to the AHFC Board for final approval. 
A more detailed description of the proposal review as well as the extensive public outreach and engagement activities is available on the Community Initiated Solutions website, Community Initiated Solutions Funding | AustinTexas.gov
 
About the Austin Housing Finance Corporation 
The Austin Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) was created in 1979 as a public, nonprofit corporation and instrumentality of the City of Austin under the provisions of the Texas Housing Finance Corporation Act, Chapter 394, and Local Government Code. The Austin City Council serves as the AHFC’s Board of Directors, with the mission to generate and implement strategic housing solutions for the benefit of low- and moderate- income residents of the City of Austin. 
 
About Housing and Planning Department
The Housing and Planning Department provides resources related to planning, zoning, housing, and community development to enhance the quality of life of all Austinites. Equitable, efficient, and comprehensive planning with displacement prevention as a prioritized focus is the Department’s core charge in delivering housing services to the community.


October Proclaimed Domestic Violence Awareness Month

 

Reports of domestic violence have doubled since pandemic


Severity of violence has increased dramatically due to easy access to firearms

 
Today the Mayor and City Council of Austin declared October to be National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. On behalf of the Mayor and Council, Council Member Leslie Pool presented a proclamation to Michelle Myles, who is Manager of the City of Austin Office of Violence Prevention.
 
“Public awareness is more important than ever,” said Council Member Pool. “Rates of domestic violence have doubled since the pandemic. And because guns are so easily accessible in Texas now, the severity of violence has escalated as well.”
 
“We have a 500% increase in chances of death or serious bodily injury when there is a firearm involved,” said Chief of Police Joseph Chacon. “There is nothing more tragic than the death of an innocent victim or child due to someone grabbing a weapon in a fit of rage in domestic violence.”
 
The pandemic brought the “perfect storm of forced isolation, stress, economic challenges, and increased risk for more frequent and severe abuse,” said Kerri Qunell, Vice President of Communications with the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline). “Survivors across the U.S. and Texas need crisis support, in record numbers. In fact, the number of people reaching out to The Hotline for 24/7 support has nearly doubled since last year— with now more than 80,000 incoming calls, chats and texts every month. The Hotline, along with local and regional organizations, are building capacity as quickly as possible to meet the increased need, but the demand outpaces anything we could have imagined.”
 
The City’s Office of Violence Prevention (OVP), which is a division of Austin Public Health (APH), recently received $5000,000 in federal funding for a three-year pilot program to implement a firearm surrender protocol targeting domestic violence abusers. The program will be implemented in partnership with Travis County and the SAFE Alliance.
 
“We continue to see how gun violence and domestic violence are linked,” said Michelle Myles, Manager of the OVP. “Organizing our systems to legally and consistently get guns out of the hands of abusers will have a ripple effect of safety in homes, schools, and communities across the region. The Office of Violence Prevention is proud to be a leader in this work.”
 
“Twice as many people are reaching out to us as before the pandemic and the level of violence has been elevated,” SAFE Executive Director Julia Spann said. “This new program will make sure that survivors of every culture and color are at the table to ensure our new protocols serve everyone in our community.” 
 
The Austin Travis County Domestic Violence Taskforce works year round to address domestic violence. Elizabeth Whited, Public Awareness Chair, said, “Domestic violence, and intimate partner violence, is an epidemic that effects every community of Travis County. The Austin Travis County Domestic Violence Taskforce is a partnership of law enforcement agencies, survivor resource groups, survivor support groups, offender treatment providers, and other government agencies addressing violence within intimate relationships. Locally, and nationally, we observed an increase in violence within intimate relationships during Covid. The Taskforce has planned numerous events to take place throughout October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, in order to shine a light where services are still needed and inspire our community to answer the call.”

Artist Access Program Now Accepting FY24 Applications

The City of Austin will begin accepting applications for the Artist Access Program 2024 season on Monday, October 3, 2022. The deadline to submit an application is December 18, 2022 at 11:59pm. The 2024 season follows the fiscal year and includes dates between October 1, 2023 and September 30, 2024.  

The Artist Access Program provides free or low-cost rehearsal and production spaces to both emerging and established performance artists from the Austin area. Created to address the needs of local artists, participating organizations collaborate with the City of Austin’s Cultural Centers to produce professional performances for both local and visiting audiences. 

Participating artists and arts organizations are able to take advantage of expanded rehearsal hours and the opportunity to produce public performances in a space for free or at a reduced rental fee of $1.00 per ticket sold. Additional benefits include marketing resources, assistance with event planning, and additional support from PARD’s arts staff.  

Current participating organizations include Lannaya Drum & Dance, Austin Shakespeare, Austin Dance Ensemble, A’lante Flamenco, Escandalo Theater, Glass Half Full Theater, Ariel Dance Theater, Austin Dance India and Teatro Vivo, among others. 

For more information, visit AustinTexas.gov/ArtistAccess or email AAPInfo@austintexas.gov.

Downtown Austin Community Court Celebrates Connecting over 400 People with Housing

On October 1, 2022, The Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC) celebrated 23 years of service to the Austin community. DACC is a diversionary court, which uses alternative forms of adjudication for people charged with low-level offenses by providing connection to services and helping people in their journey out of homelessness. All of DACC’s services are voluntary, and any individual experiencing homelessness in the community can engage in accessing basic needs, social service supports, and case management assistance without requiring any criminal justice involvement. Since 2015, DACC has connected over 400 people to long-term housing solutions.     
 
Individuals engaging in court services have the option to resolve cases through participation in case management and other activities such as obtaining identification documentation or seeking health, mental health, or treatment services.  In addition to providing person-centered and housing-focused homeless services, DACC has a Community Service Program that provides individuals the option to complete public service hour requirements through graffiti abatement, public space improvement, and assistance with operation of DACC’s Violet KeepSafe Storage (VKS) program.  VKS provides free storage for individuals experiencing homelessness, and has created employment opportunities for individuals with lived experience.
 
The Center for Court Innovation is a national nonprofit that works with both government and communities to develop and run programs that have reduced the use of incarceration, increased equity, and strengthened neighborhoods by increasing safety and economic opportunity. CCI and DACC have a long-standing partnership, both in developing DACC’s model and collaborating together to help other communities across the country in their evolution toward implementing community courts.
 
“The Downtown Austin Community Court is one of the earliest replications of the community court model developed by the Center for Court Innovation. Today the court remains an important model for other jurisdictions that are working to follow their example of amplifying core community justice principles such as putting people first with their robust client-centered case management and community advisory board,” said Medina Henry, Director of Community Justice Initiatives and Deputy Director of Training and Technical Assistance for the Center for Court Innovation. “The Center for Court Innovation is thrilled to celebrate the Downtown Austin Community Court's continued leadership on community engagement and its ability to harness the power of the justice system to address local problems and improve public safety.”  
 
DACC’s voluntary walk-in case management services have a myriad of benefits for the individuals served and for the community. Connecting individuals to social services, basic needs, and housing-focused case management helps people in their journey toward long-term stability and out of homelessness.  Additionally, walk-in case management serves as a diversion from criminal justice involvement by meeting people’s needs before situations escalate to involve law enforcement.
 
“DACC understands the complexities behind what can lead an individual into homelessness, which is why we use a person-centered approach to our services,” said Peter Valdez, DACC’s Court Administrator. “By creating a welcoming environment, we’ve built trust within the homeless community so people voluntarily seek help with services before involvement with the justice system, allowing us the opportunity to be part of the City’s compassionate response to homelessness and to align with the diversionary principles of community court models.”
 
DACC is also an integral part of the City’s emergency response system. Throughout COVID-19, DACC was one of the only homeless services in the community that continued in-person services without interruption, and saw requests for walk-in services more than double during the height of the pandemic. In 2020, DACC dedicated 55% of its staff to the City’s efforts to provide Protective Lodging facilities for individuals experiencing homelessness, in addition to expanding homeless services to incorporate COVID safety planning. DACC has also been part of the City’s cold weather response including dedicating staff during Winter Storm Uri and serving as the embarkation site for the City’s cold weather shelter operations during our most recent winter season.
 
As DACC celebrates another anniversary, the department remains committed to continually evolve to ensure services are responsive to the needs of the Austin community.

Austin Making Progress Towards Establishing Resilience Hubs

  First citywide feedback meeting is Thursday, Oct. 6 The City of Austin is  taking steps  to launch a network of Resilience Hubs. The first...