Community Action Network 2011 Annual Report

family equity and opportunity

Our Futures and Efforts

are Interconnected


Sarria photo
Vanessa Sarria, CAN Executive Director

We love our community. An annual survey done by consultants for the Austin City Council confirmed this fact. To a greater extent than folks in other major cities, we think we are just terrific, and most of the world seems to agree. The five-county Austin metro area was ranked #1 on the list of "Ten Best Cities for the Next Decade" by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. The greater Austin area consistently ranks among the top places in the nation to retire, start a business, or enjoy live music and the natural environment. We are fortunate to live in such a vibrant, educated, and culturally diverse community.


But, many of us are not well acquainted with another side of Austin. There are a greater percentage of people who are low-income in our city than in the State of Texas or the nation. Our community also has a higher percentage of households that are housing cost-burdened. Only one-third of low-income students who graduate are "college ready," or able to take college credit courses without remediation. As more families are forced to move further out to find housing they can afford, our traffic is becoming more congested, earning us another distinction as the third most congested city in America.


These two sides of our community need to get to know each other because their futures are intrinsically linked. The young Hispanic children filling our elementary school classrooms are the future workers and taxpayers who will support our aging pre-senior population, which is the fastest growing in the nation. The families pushed into the suburbs with limited transportation options are the workforce and the fuel that keep our economy strong.


CAN's Community Dashboard tracks 16 socio-economic indicators and our newly developed Strategic Framework for Action provides a common language for better understanding the inter-relationship of key strategies that can help our community achieve our common goals of equity and opportunity for all people. Carefully monitoring these indicators and identifying areas where we can work together to make sure they are moving in the right direction will help ensure that the greater Austin community remains a place that future generations will also be proud to call home.


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 Healthcare Family

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


Stay connected and informed about community issues and planning efforts...

Key Accomplishments of 2011  


Updated the Community Dashboard

CAN released the second annual Community Dashboard report and a more detailed analysis of each of the indicators on  CAN worked with stakeholders to identify goals and targets for each indicator and shared presentations and copies of the Community Dashboard with partners and others in the community.    


Used Dashboard to Inform Collaborative Action
CAN developed a Strategic Framework for Action based on the Community Dashboard that provides a context for understanding the inter-relationship of strategies needed to attain equity and opportunity for all in our community. All four areas of the framework are inter-connected. We recognize that failures in one area of the framework can impede progress towards improvement of outcomes in other areas of the framework. The framework was introduced at CAN's annual retreat in November of 2011and is now being used and refined with input from the various CAN bodies.   


Based on analysis of community issues through the lens of the Community Dashboard, the CAN partners decided to work together in two key areas: 

  • Workforce Solutions - Capital Area launched "Pathway to Prosperity," an initiative to enhance work opportunities for people who are low-income.
  • CAN began convening housing stakeholders to coordinate research and planning along the housing continuum and across the 5-county region.   

Examined Inequities and Demographic Trends   

CAN convened a Mappers and Planners Work Group comprised of professionals from throughout the region to share data, information and insights about how our community is changing. The work of this group revealed many assessments and plans that need to be connected to maximize resources and impact. This work also resulted in a better understanding of key demographic shifts: a growing, sprawling, diversifying population with greater disparities in incomes and a marked growth among Hispanics, Asians, children & youth, and the elderly.  Highlights of these findings were shared  throughout the CAN network and will continue to inform many of CAN's other initiatives. 



Enhanced Community's Awareness of Issues, Inequities and Efforts 

The CAN Community Council, a self-appointed board of community members who represent the diversity of interests, concerns, organizations, issues and populations of the Central Texas community, held monthly televised forums on the following community issues:

  • Barriers to education success for single moms
  • Early education and care
  • High school career tracks and workforce education
  • Health and behavioral health
  • Tools to connect families to resources
  • Homelessness and housing planning
  • Programs to support small business development
  • Sustainability and Complete Communities


Informed Network of Local Impact of State Budget Cuts & Response 

CAN convened an Intergovernmental Public Policy Committee, comprised of governmental relations professionals of most of the CAN partner agencies, to share information about the local impact of budgets cuts resulting from action taken during the 82nd Legislative Session.  Both a pre-Legislative Session and   post-Legislative Session dialogue between the CAN Board of Directors and the members of the Travis County legislative delegation helped policy makers understand common interests and concerns. 


Worked to Connect Families & Individuals to Community Resources

CAN made progress on its Stable Families, Healthy Communities Five-Year Plan by convening exploratory meetings to learn how the Texas Benefit Bank could promote outreach through a volunteer model and streamline eligibility screening for a range of programs.  CAN also worked with the Behavioral Health Planning Partnership to convene exploratory meetings related to launching a Community Resource Coordinating Group for persons with behavioral health issues. 

CAN Welcomes New Leaders for 2012  

Alan Miller, 2012 CAN Board Chair
CAN Board of Directors
Alan Miller is the new Chair of the CAN Board of Directors. Miller has served as Executive Director of Workforce Solutions - Capital Area since 2007.   Joining Miller in the leadership of CAN is Ashton Cumberbatch  who will serve as Vice Chair of CAN in 2012 and Chair of the CAN Board of Directors in 2013. Cumberbatch is Vice President of Advocacy and Community Relations for the Seton Healthcare Family and, for the past three years, has chaired Community Action Network's Dashboard Steering Committee.
The CAN Board of Directors is made up of elected officials and chief administrators of the 17 agencies that are partners in the Community Action Network. 
Sylvia Blanco, 2012 CAN Community Council Chair
CAN Community Council
Sylvia Blanco, Vice President of Housing and Community Development forthe Housing Authority of the City of Austin,  will serve as Chair of the CAN Community Council 2012.  Vice Chair for 2012 and Chair-Elect for 2013 is Stefan Molina, Director of Foundation and Program Development for the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The CAN Community Council is a self-appointed board of individuals who reflect the diversity of interests, concerns, organizations, issues and populations of the Central Texas community.   The role of the Community Council is to provide a link between the community at large and the policy makers and elected officials who serve on the CAN Board of Directors.  
Issue Area Group Highlights for 2011 


Following are just a few highlights of Issue Area Group accomplishments in 2011:


Aging Services Council (ASC) worked with the Office of Homeland Security and the UT School of Nursing to develop a plan for 1200 Emergency Preparedness Kits for people who are homebound and who earn 150% of the Federal Poverty Level. The kits will be distributed in 2012 with the help of ASC member organizations.   The Neighborhood Ambassador program, developed in 2011, was handed off to ASC member organization Coming of Age which continues to partner with the ASC to train and inform community members of the resources and services available to people who are aging and those who care for them.  The ASC worked with the UT School of Social Work to develop a Professional Development Symposium, scheduled for April 2012, for case workers and health professionals who work with the elderly.


Behavioral Health Planning Partnership (BHPP) coordinated with the Community Action Network to convene a community meeting to understand current efforts underway to coordinate services for frequent users of hospitals, jails, courts, and other systems.  Participants included representatives of the Community Court, Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, Emergency Public Safety and the Seton High Alert Program, Travis County Mental Health Public Defender's Office, Special Courts, and the Mental Health Task Force.  This resulted in the creation of a Community Resource Coordinating Group (CRCG) Subcommittee of the Behavioral Health Planning Partnership that will work to coordinate services for adults with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse issues.  Furthermore, BHPP began to work in partnership with the Austin/Travis County Recovery Oriented System of Care (ROSC) to develop a network of formal and informal services developed and mobilized to sustain long-term recovery for individuals and families impacted by substance abuse disorders.  The CAN Board agreed to support the development of the ROSC by including this initiative in its 2012 Work Plan.


Central Texas Afterschool Network (CTAN) completed data collection on out-of-school time resources in 17 low-income Travis County zip codes.  Children's Optimal Health created a report with maps using the data and CTAN, with the help of CAN staff, is working to produce an extended report from the information.  CTAN assisted in getting funding for the Texas Partnership for Out-of-School Time and engaged in advocacy efforts that helped to save City funding for Prime Time, the largest free afterschool program in the City of Austin.  CTAN also continued Youth Program Quality Efforts in partnership with United Way Capital Area and Ready by 21 and held its fourth annual conference for out-of-school time professionals.


Child & Youth Mental Health Planning Partnership (CYMHPP) developed and published three indicators of child and youth well-being as part of a community-wide steering committee convened by Ready by 21.  The indicators that CYMHPP chose to focus on include internalizing and externalizing behaviors and suicidality.  This information was shared through presentations to various community groups, including the CAN Community Council. CYMHPP also worked with AISD to revise mental health questions on the AISD Student Substance Use and Safety Survey in order to get more relevant indicators for mental health in the future and sponsored and organized a Mental Health Day awareness event at Seton Hospital. 


The Early Childhood Stakeholders Group began a community input process to develop a School Readiness Action Plan. United Way Capital Area's Success by 6 initiative, a leading force behind the Early Childhood Stakeholders, worked with Children's Optimal Health to produce a mapping study identifying neighborhoods where there may be concentrations of young children with identified developmental vulnerabilities.


Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) hired its first ever Executive Director and continued progress on strategies to accomplish its "Plan to End Community Homelessness in Austin and Travis County."  ECHO launched a "100 Homes Campaign" to identify 100 people vulnerable for death on the street within 5 years. This vulnerable population is now a priority to house.  ECHO increased community awareness of homelessness during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, held an annual homeless resource fair, conducted a HUD required point-in-time count of people who are homeless in our community, and coordinated the submission of a competitive HUD grant application, which results in approximately $4.7 million in federal funding for housing and homeless services annually in Austin/Travis County. ECHO also hosted a public hearing on the Texas Interagency Plan to End Homelessness and worked to educate Austin neighbors about the benefits of Permanent Supportive Housing.


HousingWorks hosted a "There's No Place like Home" bus tour to educate community leaders and elected officials about creative ways to integrate affordable homes into all parts of town.  125 community leaders learned about the connection between affordable housing and transit at an October event that was co-sponsored by HousingWorks and the University of Texas Opportunity Forum. HousingWorks encouraged community input into the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan and the Downtown Austin Plan to ensure that both promote a mix of affordable housing in all parts of town.    


The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Coalition (IDDC) worked during the 82nd Legislative Session to educate legislators and their staff about the need for a seamless continuum of services and supports to improve the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The IDDC began work on a symposium for parents, caregivers and service providers on the services, resources and options for people making the transition from pediatric to adult services.  


Literacy Coalition of Central Texas recruited, trained and certified hundreds of volunteers and staff to teach Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language. In its second year, the Literacy Coalition's Instructor Training was recognized by ProLiteracy, a national literacy agency, to be implemented nationwide in 2012. Literacy Coalition leadership collaborated with adult literacy programs, Workforce Solutions Capital Area, and Austin Community College to create the new Workforce and Education Readiness Continuum, a more coordinated system   to seamlessly transition adults through community-based educational programming, job training, and other support services. The Learner Web program, initiated in Austin through a partnership with Portland State University, now operates in 15 community computer labs across town, where nearly 350 learners can access lesson plans for improving their computer and workplace literacy. Reports such as The Need for Adult Education Services & the Capacity to Meet the Need and resource guides such as the Literacy Services Directory and the Healthcare Resource Directory, are always available at


The Ready by 21 Coalition's Steering Group on Children and Youth, composed of representatives from a broad range of youth-focused coalitions, developed an online dashboard of child and youth indicators with support from Workforce Solutions-Capital Area, United Way Capital Area, and CAN. The Youth Services Mapping System, a project that originated in RB21 and was developed through AISD's ACCESS grant, now contains profiles for nearly 300 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.  RB21 members also began to have conversations about launching RB21 2.0 which will be an enhanced effort by the organization to coordinate efforts of child and youth providers through a leadership cabinet that works to address issues and make a collective impact.  


The Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable utilized multiple strategies to encourage healthy relationships between law enforcement and neighborhoods, augment collaboration among diverse stakeholders as well as promote successful reentry and reintegration of former offenders back to our community.  The efforts that the A/TCRRT has taken were driven by the input from the community and accomplished by the power of collaboration with over 500 partners and stakeholders throughout the Travis County catchment area.  These collaborative efforts have worked on systemic changes, reunification of families, education of sentencing practices, and training of those delivering direct services from professionals to paraprofessionals and volunteers.


The Regional Transit Coordination Committee (RTCC) moves forward on development of a major update to the region's Coordinated Plan, working with a consultant team to analyze data on needs and resources, conduct a survey on the needs of public transportation users and others, host meetings and "open bus" sessions around the reion to get input on solutions and to develop a draft Coordinated Plan.  In 2011, the RTCC also worked with Capital Metro and CAMPO to prepare for an early 2012 call for projects that will award approximately $1.7 million in new Federal Job Access Reverswe Commute and New Freedom funding to projects servine the Austin urbanized area.