Community Action Network 2010 Annual Report

family equity and opportunity

Dear CAN friends,


This last year was a difficult one for many in our community.  The latest Census data showed that the portion of people living below 200 percent of the federal poverty level in Travis County jumped from 32% in 2008 to 35% in 2009. This translates to an increase of 40,000 more people and a total of 352,000 people living in households that are unable to make ends meet when given the cost of living in our community.

While the numbers of families and individuals needing assistance increased, the budgets of government, education, and nonprofit agencies that support our community's infrastructure and serve people in need were shrinking.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 helped to mitigate some of the impacts of the Recession, but this influx of short-term funding from the federal government was not enough to fill ongoing deficits. 

CAN was originally created in 1995 because community leaders saw value in working across organizational boundaries to address community issues.  The wisdom of this original vision is even clearer during difficult times such as these. 


CAN's 2010 initiatives reinforced our mission of working across agencies and issues to develop collaborative solutions.  We launched a Community Dashboard that highlights 16 social indicators that help us gauge our community's overall well-being and guide our collaborative action.  The Healthy Families, Stable Community initiative resulted in adoption of an implementation plan for streamlining and maximizing  efforts to connect individuals and families to  public assistance.  The Intergovernmental Public Policy Committee helped CAN partners share information about legislative priorities and find common ground in anticipation of state budget cuts.  


Strong partnerships fortified through the CAN network helped our community come together to deal with the challenges of 2010. In 2011, this foundation of relationships built on the spirit of collaboration will help our community become more resilient and weather the storms ahead.    


We are grateful and thankful to all of you who commit your time, energy, and resources to creating a community of equity and opportunity for all.

Very sincerely,
Vanessa Sarria,
CAN Executive Director


 CAN Partners
Austin Chamber of Commerce
Austin Community College
Austin ISD
Austin/Travis County Integral Care
Capital Metro
Central Health
City of Austin
Community Justice Council
Interfaith Action Central Texas
One Voice Central Texas

Seton Family of Hospitals

St. David's Foundation

St. Edward's University

Travis County

United Way Capital Area

University of Texas at Austin

Workforce Solutions - Capital Area

  CAN Vision
   Our richly diverse community will be healthy, safe, educated, just and compassionate where all people work together to achieve their full potential and celebrate their lives. 

CAN Mission
   To achieve sustainable social, health, educational and economic outcomes through engaging the community in a planning and implementation process that coordinates and optimizes public, private, individual actions and resources. 
   Connecting and Informing


Community Action Network keeps the members of the CAN community connected and informed about community issues and planning efforts.


We do this through...

Key Accomplishments in 2010  



Community Dashboard:  CAN launched a Community Dashboard of 16 social indicators that, when taken together and tracked over time, offer a snapshot of the social health and well-being of Austin and Travis County.  Throughout the year, Issue Area Groups, CAN partners and other key community stakeholders helped us understand each of these indicators in more detail through 10 televised CAN Community Council forums.  For each indicator, stakeholders were invited to share 1) where we stand on the indicator, 2) what organizations are working to move the indicator in the right direction, and 3) what more needs to be done. 


Highlights of key findings that resulted from this work in 2010 was shared at the annual CAN retreat and later with Travis County legislators.  This information helped CAN partners identify the collaborative initiatives they wish to pursue in the 2011 CAN Work Plan.  This information will be highlighted in the 2011 Community Dashboard report and on the CAN website. 


Streamlined Common Eligibility Initiative: In 2009, the CAN Board adopted a Stable Families, Healthy Community Plan that provided a framework to connect families and individuals to a range of community resources while ensuring that those who qualify are enrolled for public assistance.  In 2010, CAN built on previous planning efforts and: 

  • Convened a  Streamlined Common Eligibility Work Group to guide implementation of the Stable Families, Healthy Community Plan.
  • Collaborated with the UT School of Social Work to 1) conduct an inventory of eligibility criteria and customer information/documents used by safety net organizations to determine eligibility for public assistance and 2) identify information technology systems commonly used in Austin/Travis County.  
  • Submitted a federal grant proposal to support a collaborative process and an initial pilot that would help connect and sustain eligibility determination and data sharing efforts in the health arena to the efforts of the Capital Area Food Bank, Catholic Charities and the City of Austin who provide enrollment assistance for the Supplemental Nutrition Program (food stamps), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and other public assistance programs.  We did not receive one of the five awards granted nationally. 

Community Resources 101: Training sessions were developed in partnership with United Way Capital Area to encourage people who need services to call the 2-1-1 Information & Referral System that provides referrals to over 1,800 community programs in their web-based database and serves as a key referral point for State benefits. These trainings help front line workers and volunteers in service agencies, churches and other organizations understand how 2-1-1 works and how it can be used to connect people to the services they need.  A training curriculum was developed and launched and a schedule of Community Resources 101 sessions for 2011 was created.   Click here to register your front line staff and volunteers to learn how to connect those in need to community resources.


Advocacy & Policy:  The CAN Board launched CAN's advocacy and policy initiative by hosting a dialogue with Travis County legislators to identify the legislative priorities of local delegates.  CAN Partner staff then worked together through an Intergovernmental Stimulus and Public Policy Committee to provide updates to the CAN Board on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars allocated to Austin/Travis County (now totaling over half a billion dollars) and stimulus-funded collaborative efforts and to identify legislative issues and priorities. The work of the Intergovernmental Committee culminated in a follow-up dialogue between the CAN Board and Travis County legislators where the CAN Board Chair presented a statement of shared legislative themes and priorities in anticipation of significant State budget cuts in 2011.  CAN Partner legislative agendas were also shared with legislators, posted on the CAN website, and shared with the community through CANews.   


CAN Welcomes New Leaders for 2011  

Commissioner Eckhardt
Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County Commissioner, is the new Chair of the CAN Board of Directors.  Joining Eckhardt in the leadership of CAN is Alan Miller, Executive Director of Workforce Solutions - Capital Area, who will serve as Vice Chair in 2011 and Chair of the CAN Board of Directors in 2012.
Jim Reed, owner of Optimal Designs Inc., will serve as Chair of the CAN Community Council 2011.  Sylvia Blanco, Vice President of Housing and Community Development for the Housing Authority of the City of Austin will serve as Vice Chair in 2011 and Chair of the Community Council in 2012.
Issue Area Group Highlights for 2010 


Following are just a few highlights of Issue Area Group accomplishments in 2010:


Aging Services Council (ASC)The ASC launched a Neighborhood Ambassador Program aimed at training a cadre of neighborhood leaders to share information about resources and services available to seniors.  Developed a quarterly newsletter of information about services to share in neighborhood centers, senior centers, churches and any place that people gather. 


Basic Needs Coalition (BNC):  The Basic Needs Coalition provided the catalyst for the Best Single Source program and the Rapid Re-Housing program which provide case management and financial assistance to families and individuals at risk of homelessness. The network of relationships provided through the BNC added to the community's ability to access federal stimulus dollars. The Coalition helped to raise community awareness about poverty in our community with government proclamations, e-blasts and a presentation to the CAN Community Council. The BNC also partnered with ECHO to support and publicize National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.  


Behavioral Health Planning Partnership (BHPP): The BHPP partnered with Continuing Education at the University of Texas at Austin to expand professional development in cultural competency for behavioral health professionals. The BHPP also began working with boarding homes in the Austin area to better address the behavioral health needs of boarding home residents and continued conversations with stakeholders about the creation of a "sober center." Planning for the group to address developing a system of care based in a recovery model was initiated and will be the focus for 2011. The BHPP will use the recovery model to further develop substance use disorder and mental health integration in the community's behavioral health system of care. 



Central Texas Afterschool Network (CTAN)CTAN developed a statement of Best Practices and an accompanying quality self-assessment tool, in alignment with the National Afterschool Association's accreditation program. CTAN Collaborated with Your Community Guide to produce both a printed and online searchable guide of afterschool opportunities for distribution to parents and schools in Travis County. CTAN partnered with United Way Capital Area and Ready by 21 to launch the High Scope Youth Quality Improvement System to increase program quality throughout Central Texas. CTAN also held its third annual conference for afterschool professionals; and is currently conducting a mapping study to identify afterschool programs and the numbers of students served in 17 Travis County low-income zip codes.



Child & Youth Mental Health Planning Partnership (CYMHPP)CYMHPP is collaborating with the indicator projects of the Ready by 21 Coalition and the Mental Health Task Force and is providing analysis of mental health indicators for children and youth. CYMHPP also hosted a Children's Mental Health Day at AISD's Lucy Reed Pre-K Center.         



Early Education and Care (Success By 6): The E3 Alliance and eight area school districts piloted a new measure of school readiness. Success by 6 worked with the City of Austin to ensure a smooth transition of services for young children and their families who were impacted by the sudden closure of Family Connections. The group also continued its work to increase the quality of child care available to children living in families with low income. In 2010, 52% of licensed child care centers serving low-income children were nationally accredited or Texas Rising Star certified. In 2005, only 12.5% were recognized. In the past five years, the percentage of child care centers with access to mental health consultation rose from 4.5% to 16%. Success by 6, in conjunction with community partners, has expanded the availability of support services to families with low income. In the past year, 516 families with children ages 0 to 3 received evidence-based home visitation services, increasing the likelihood that economically vulnerable children will enter public school with age-appropriate skills. 


Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO)ECHO reorganized and became an independent non-profit organization with a new community board of directors and governance structure.  ECHO published a "Plan to End Community Homelessness in Austin and Travis County"  as well as a report on best practices for support services in permanent supportive housing.  ECHO also held the annual homeless resource fair, conducted a count of the people who are homeless in our community, coordinated the submission of our community's Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care application, which results in approximately $4.5 million in federal funding for housing and homeless services annually. ECHO also assisted in obtaining a $2 million grant for Salvation Army to be used for homeless prevention efforts among recently discharged veterans.  


HousingWorks: In collaboration with the Urban Land Institute, Real Estate Council of Austin and Austin Area Research Organization, released a report on housing policy priorities: Building and Retaining an Affordable Austin. Approximately 82 community leaders participated in the annual HousingWorks affordable housing bus tour of Austin, which explored how changes in zoning and density can improve affordability. Through efforts of the Housing Repair Coalition, which was originally a subcommittee of HousingWorks, the City of Austin agreed to devote $2 million of the voter-approved Affordable Housing General Obligation bond money to home repairs for low-income seniors and people who are disabled. The Housing Repair Coalition was awarded the Community Action Network Spirit of Collaboration Butler Award in recognition of its ground-breaking work to promote collaboration in the home repair efforts of government and non-profit organizations.


Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Coalition (IDCC)The IDDC held a symposium, entitled "Transitions to the Future" for parents and caregivers of children with developmental disabilities.  The symposium featured information on housing and employment, financial support, guardianship and other legal issues. Texas Monthly Executive Editor Mimi Swartz was the keynote speaker.  Opening comments were shared by Chris Traylor, Commissioner of the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.



Literacy Coalition of Central Texas: The Literacy Coalition recruited and referred 140 new volunteers to their network of partner literacy providers, trained 117 instructors of adult English language instruction, certified 9 master ABE instructor trainers and trained 19 ABE instructors in research-based classroom instruction strategies.  In the inaugural year of Health Literacy instruction, 286 healthcare providers were educated to effectively communicate with low literate patients. The Literacy Coalition also released updates for the Literacy Services Directory and the Immigrant Services Directory. In June 2010, the Literacy Coalition convened the Central Texas Regional Literacy Summit to formally release reports on literacy in Central Texas including The Need for Adult Education Services & the Capacity to Meet the Need.  All reports and directories are available on the coalition's



Ready by 21 Coalition:  The Ready by 21 Coalition formed a new Steering Group with representatives from a broad range of youth-focused coalitions dedicated to using data to improve priority outcomes and indicators for children and youth - from early childhood to young adulthood, in areas of learning, working, thriving, connecting, and contributing.  With CAN, the new Steering Group is developing an online dashboard that will be linked with other community dashboards.  The Youth Services Mapping system, a project that originated in RB21 and was developed through AISD's ACCESS grant, now contains profiles for more than 100 service providers.  RB21's Quality team (in partnership with CTAN) continues to conduct Youth Program Quality Assessments and provide low cost professional development opportunities for staff from diverse youth programs.  The Youth Aging Out of Foster Care subcommittees developed a resource guide and coordinated to address gaps and barriers for youth aging out.  The Austin Healthy Adolescents (AHA) team led by the City of Austin HHSD began a planning initiative to coordinate improved health and engagement for young people.  The Youth Engagement Team produced a video on effective local practices for youth engagement.   The Coalition offered presentations on important topics such as AISD's strategic plan, desired professional skills in entry level employees, sexual health, and juvenile violent crime, and launched a new website to more effectively share information.


Reentry Roundtable:  In response to community input, the Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable's primary focus for FY 2010 was on housing for persons with criminal backgrounds.  The Roundtable raised awareness among policy makers and stakeholders about the needs for better data collection, use of evidence-based practices, and planning around the special needs of this vulnerable population with emphasis on permanent supportive housing.  The Roundtable's efforts to enhance awareness of the needs of the reentry population resulted in some key successes including Austin City Council's adoption of NHCD's Action Plan for FY 2010-2011 that included permanent supportive housing in accordance with the FY 2009-2014 Consolidated Plan which included the reentry population as a special needs population, the Council's adoption of a resolution supporting the creation of 350 units of permanent supportive housing, and the City's development of a Comprehensive Permanent Supportive Housing Strategy which made the recommendation that 225 of the 350 units of PSH to be developed over the next three years be targeted toward "frequent users of systems," including the criminal justice system. The Reentry Roundtable also worked with Caritas of Austin to create 10 units of permanent supportive housing for people exiting the State Jail and assisted with the development of a proposal for another 20 units for users of the Downtown Austin Community.   The Roundtable also worked with the Austin Police Department and the Travis County Sheriff's Office to revise arrest protocols for dealing with children who are present during arrests and developed a guide for children's caregivers which is now being disseminated through the Victim Services Divisions of these law enforcement agencies.  


Regional Transit Coordination Committee: Federal Transit Administration Job Access Reverse Commute and New Freedom Grants awarded through the RTCC were used in 2010 to implement a new bus route serving Del Valle (operated through a partnership between Capital Metro and CARTS), purchase a new van to provide additional service to clients of the Foundation for the Homeless, and to purchase new computers to increase the volunteer driver services provided through Faith in Action Caregivers. In 2010, the RTCC laid the groundwork for a major update to the region's Coordinated Transportation Plan, developing background materials and hiring a consultant to assist in plan development; and moved forward on its Transportation Solutions Initiative, developing a database of regional transportation providers, BETA testing a Google maps application of the data, and conducting a survey of front line workers regarding their knowledge of the family of transportation services in the region.