Fourteen years ago, the couple lived in Central Austin but as rents have increased and their family has grown they’ve been pushed more than 10 miles from downtown.

Paving a Path to Economic Security

Sarah and Matthew’s busy young family live in South Austin. While the kids, two boys and a girl ages 6-9, dream of a backyard, Sarah and Matthew dream of college or technical training for their children and the economic security they hope comes with it. Like many working families, Sarah and Matthew felt they were doing well—she is a nurse and he’s with UPS—even though rent for their duplex kept creeping up.

When their third child was born with serious medical conditions requiring many doctor appointments, therapies and surgeries, Sarah stayed home and they dipped into savings. When their rent increased by $200 a month, bills began piling up. Their lowest point was when the family was homeless—Sarah and the children had to move in with her parents and Matthew moved back home to his.

For years, the couple got their income tax forms prepared at Foundation Communities, a nonprofit that offers a continuum of economic and housing services. But they had never thought they’d need the organization’s affordable housing. During the family’s most difficult period, however, they qualified for the nonprofit’s deepest wrap-around services.

Now Sarah works at the UT student health center and their youngest is doing well. The kids attend a free after-school program provided by Foundation Communities which means both parents can both work full-time. The kids get help with homework and plenty of play time outside. Sarah also takes Zumba and nutrition classes offered there. On their tight budget, the family could never afford to pay for quality after-school care for three—not to mention adult classes.

“When you have to work two or three jobs—I know people who have to do this—you can’t be there 100% for your kids. When parents are involved it helps kids do better in school and they’re more likely to go on to higher education.”

Matthew especially believes in college or technical training for the kids. He didn’t attend college and feels it limits his career opportunities. Sarah wishes local public schools offered the option for students to gain technical skills or certifications that prepare them to support themselves.

“When you can’t buy a birthday present for your child or for your child to participate in soccer because you can’t afford it, it affects the child’s progress.”

The family is challenged to cover the basics and maintain two cars. If public transportation was efficient and directly connected home, work and school, they would definitely consider it. Based on their experience, they feel there is a real need for services and support for families who are aren’t yet desperate but are struggling to make ends meet.

“The community definitely needs to take part in making sure everyone can still afford to live here. Regular service workers, support staff, the people who keep Austin running can no longer afford to live within Austin. They have to move further and further out.”

Understanding Austin

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