Decibel Team Talks With Residents At Community Resource Kickoff Party

By Blair Waltman-Alexin | Wednesday, May 8th 2024

Safety, affordability, and dinosaurs–those were some of the big concerns that residents young and old shared with the Decibel team at this weekend’s Education With Heart: A Community Celebration event.

Co-hosted by the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, the Austin Independent School District, and Academia Cuauhtli, the event served as the kickoff party for the new Community Love Hub. This resource center will be housed in Mendez Middle School, and aims to provide Dove Springs residents access to learning opportunities, resources and after-school programs.

The Decibel team set up tables alongside a host of other community groups and organizations. Over face painting and stickers, team members talked with residents about what stories they’d like to see Decibel cover in Dove Springs. Residents were encouraged to vote on a topic they’d like to see covered. Options included rent, affordability, housing and bills. Residents could also write down specific topics they’d like to see covered on sticky notes. Some younger attendees preferred to create some prehistoric art.

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An attendee at the Education With Heart: A Community Celebration sticks a note with a story suggestion on a board for the Decibel team.

A couple major themes emerged. Several residents wrote down ‘safety.’ One resident went on to say she had moved out of Austin, despite the costs, due to safety concerns in the area. According to the Austin Police Department’s new interactive dashboard, District 2 ranks fifth for overall crime rates averaged over the last four years. Those are the only years available as of yet on the dashboard.

Another major concern was affordability. One resident wrote, “affordability for middle-class families.” Other residents asked for stories looking into property taxes. Another attendee talked about the challenges in finding housing that was within their budget.

Affordability remains a major issue in Austin. United Way 211 call data shows that in August of 2023 (the most recent data available) 10,050 calls were made by Dove Springs residents seeking assistance. That’s a slight uptick from the year prior which saw 9,466 distinct calls. Many of those requests were people seeking assistance with food stamps, followed by utility assistance. The needs mirror many of the issues that the City of Austin’s new displacement prevention navigators are [hearing from residents]( "decibel "if we wouldn't have been there would they have kept their electricity?"").

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Younger attendees gave the Decibel team small works of art.

But residents also spent the day sharing joy and optimism. Cheer groups, mariachi bands and ballet folklorico dancers from area schools performed throughout the day. Community leaders discussed summer program opportunities with families. As much as residents talked about challenges, they also talked about hope. It was best summed up in a final story suggestion from one young attendee: how to be a good friend.

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