Foundation Communities: Supporting families for a better Central Texas

This blog is part of a series that highlights the work of our partners.

For one Central Texas organization, the word “community” means more than geographic proximity: It means living, learning and playing together, and support for all families.

As the cost of living continues to climb in Central Texas, many have been asking this question: How do we begin to close the opportunity gap? Since 1990, Foundation Communities has been providing families, veterans, seniors and disabled individuals with affordable housing and free on-site support services. With 18 communities across Austin and North Texas, Foundation Communities has begun to move the needle for the families most in need.

Increased access to great education and health: The model

Foundation Communities currently houses more than 2,800 families, including 228 formerly homeless children, and many single adults. The community’s value goes beyond affordable rent too, as they also provide support services in these key areas:

  • They are setting families on the path to success through on-site education programs. They offer students after-school and summer academic support – these children and teens earn, on average, a 3.4 GPA – while adults have the opportunity to improve language and literacy skills.
  • Low-income families and individuals have the opportunity to achieve financial stability through programs including free income tax preparation, one-on-one financial coaching and money management courses, matched savings accounts and assistance with college financial aid.
  • They offer free health programming to residents and the public, including physical activity classes, nutrition education and information on health and well-being. From transportation to childcare, the organization eliminates common barriers to living a healthy lifestyle.

The word “community” means more than geographic proximity: It means living, learning and playing together, and support for all families.

From residents to the community

Foundation Communities aims to reach more low-income families by improving the lives of residents and then creating a trickle-down effect in the community. For example, while many low-income schools face high mobility rates due to rising housing costs – some facing rates as high as 40% – Foundation Communities provides the support families need to stay in one place by helping them achieve financial stability. When these families stay in one place, the mobility rate decreases in local schools and then these schools are able to become more effective.

St. Elmo Elementary, a low-income school in South Austin, is an example of this. With over 50% of its students living at a Foundation Communities property, students and families receive the support they need to overcome many of the challenges other low-income schools face. Additionally, Foundation Communities supports working parents by providing free after-school care where kids can receive homework assistance and enrichment activities. The school now has a low mobility rate under 16% and earned distinctions in four out of the five areas for which it was eligible.

What’s next?

How will Foundation Communities scale this model to increase impact in Central and North Texas? The organization is continually expanding and finding new ways to accommodate more families in its programming and services.

Foundation Communities recently gained permission from Andrews Elementary to move some of their afterschool learning services to the school campus. This will help the organization accommodate around 30 more students per day. By 2016, Foundation Communities will have four new properties, three of which will have an on-site learning center with access to free afterschool programs, adult education and health programming.

While the challenges that face Central Texans are great, the work of Foundation Communities reveals that the best change comes when you approach it one step at a time. From Foundation Communities residents to the region as a whole, their model will play an important role in shaping the future of Central Texas.

Other blogs in this series:

Education Cities: Redefining what’s possible in education

Marathon Kids: Scaling nationally so more kids can go the distance

LEAD Public Schools: Chartering restart work in Music City

Mission Capital: A new approach to community challenges