Turning the Corner

Austin
6:42 pm
Sat November 1, 2014

A Story of Survival: One Year After the Halloween Floods

From left to right: Lawrence Joiner, Acelee Joiner, Kailynn Childers, Alyssa Joiner, Natalie Lindsey, Isaac Jacobs, and Bene Jacobs.
Ilana Panich-Linsman, KUT News

It was still dark the morning of Halloween 2013 when hundreds of families in Onion Creek, a neighborhood in South East Austin, woke up to rising water in their homes.

Bene Jacobs and her family survived the flood by taking refuge on their neighbor's roof.

She remembers that morning clearly.

Bene and her partner Lawrence waded through the waters with their three children in tow. Ten-year-old Isaac was in Lawrence's arms. Isaac was born with special needs. His wheelchair would have been swept by the fast moving waters. Alyssa was five at the time and Acelee, a toddler.

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Turning the Corner
9:33 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Dove Springs: Turning the Corner in Southeast Austin

Paula Aguilar, Leonor Vargas, George Morales, Eliseo Ramos, Bob Larson and Bene Jacobs (l to r)
KUT News

Welcome to Dove Springs. 

Driving through the neighborhood, you may not realize you’re in the same city that’s home to Franklin Barbeque, Barton Springs or the Continental Club. Five miles down I-35 from the Texas Capitol lies a modest residential area in the city’s southeast corner, one of the last neighborhoods many Austin residents pass as they head to the airport. 

It’s also one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods with a history of gangs and drugs, poverty, teen pregnancy and obesity.

But it's a neighborhood filled with hardworking parents, multi-generational families and cultural diversity. There’s always been a lot of pride, but recently, residents are giving the neighborhood a voice. They’re advocating for better services, organizing events and this fall, they’ll elect a city council member to specifically represent their district.

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Turning The Corner
2:50 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

This Teen's Looking Beyond Dove Springs – But Not Forgetting Where He Came From

Isay Medrano performs with the Mendez Middle School Varsity Orchestra during their Orchestra UIL competition at Austin High School. The orchestra achieved "sweepstakes" status for superior performance three times in a row.
Sam Ortega/KUT

Mendez Middle School lies in the heart of Dove Springs. It’s the only middle school in the neighborhood – so if you grow up in the area, it’s more than likely you’ve walked these halls.

Students here deal with lots of challenges. For one, more students at Mendez have at least one parent in jail than any other school in the district. Nearly 95 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Most students are being raised by just one parent. Others are undocumented – or their parents are.

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Turning the Corner
5:47 am
Fri May 30, 2014

For Dove Springs Principal, Data Are 'X-Rays' to Diagnose Ailing School

Student test scores have been improving at Mendez under Principal Ron Gonzales. Still, less than half of the seventh graders at Mendez passed the state assesment for Reading and Language Arts.
Bryan Winter for KUT News

This article is part of KUT's yearlong series Turning the Corner, taking a look at Austin's Dove Springs neighborhood. For decades, the neighborhood has had a negative reputation. Now, many community members are trying to change the perception of the 78744 zip code. Listen to those stories here.

Ron Gonzales loves numbers. It makes sense: he used to be a math teacher before he became a principal. His love of hard data is obvious when you enter Mendez Middle School, where he has been the principal for the past four years.  One of the first things you see is a bulletin board with each grade’s daily attendance rate. Next to it, he posts how much money the school lost due to absences that day.

“For example, yesterday we had 23 sixth graders and we also know lose $45 per scholar per day, so we lost $1,035 just for grade six," Gonzales says, pointing to the bulletin board.

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Turning The Corner
11:55 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Gentrification or a Renaissance in Austin's Dove Springs Neighborhood?

The new Arbor Ridge development located on Nuckols Crossing Road has some homes finished and some under construction.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Dove Springs in Southeast Austin is just six miles from downtown – what many real estate agents consider a prime location. But the area is also one of the poorest parts of Austin. And for decades, it's had a less than desirable reputation.

Despite all that, change is coming to Dove Springs – with some believing they're witnessing the beginning of gentrification.

The area has traditionally been filled with low-income renters, many who are recent immigrants and don't speak English. Data may still point to those facts. But on the ground, the neighborhood is going through what many believe is a fast transformation.

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Turning the Corner
10:59 am
Fri May 9, 2014

How Teen Pregnancies at Mendez Middle School Were Cut Down to Zero

Last year 22 middle school students in Austin ISD became pregnant, but none were at Mendez Middle School, despite its location in the Austin neighborhood with the highest teen pregnancy rate. So what happened?
flickr.com/dongkwan

This article is part of KUT's yearlong series Turning the Corner, taking a look at Austin's Dove Springs neighborhood. For decades, the neighborhood has had a negative reputation. Now, many community members are trying to change the perception of the 78744 zip code. Listen to those stories here.

In the 2012-2013 school year, the Austin school district reported 303 student pregnancies districtwide. 22 of those pregnancies were middle school students.

Despite its location in the neighborhood with the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Travis County, none of them were at Mendez Middle School. So what happened? 

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Turning the Corner
8:50 am
Fri April 11, 2014

'I Gotta Keep Going:' Boxing Has Dove Springs Students Pushing Ahead

Benjamin Munoz practices on a speed bag at Mendez Middle School in Dove Springs.

For the past seven months KUT has focused on the Dove Springs neighborhood in southeast Austin. We’ve been looking at issues facing this largely poor, immigrant community: access to healthcare, educational issues, affordable housing – and how organizations and individuals are trying to bring change.

In October, we went to a boxing ring at Mendez Middle School. An after-school program there is teaching the kids boxing as a way to provide some structure after classes let out.

We went back to the ring recently – and found quite a few things had changed. 

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Turning the Corner
8:49 am
Fri March 21, 2014

There's a Different Kind of Homelessness for Onion Creek Flood Victims

Lydia Huerta stands by the RV that she called home for months. Her house is fully rebuilt, and her family is moving back in.
Credit Joy Diaz, KUT News

When you think about the word “homeless,” what comes to mind?

Homelessness can include a person who lacks housing. But it is also includes people in transitional housing. That's where Lydia Huerta, her husband and their three kids found themselves after they lost their home to flooding October 31.

Huerta says she "never really felt panic" until she lost her home. 

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Turning the Corner
7:45 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Dove Springs Residents Hope New City Council Elections Give Neighborhood a Voice

Edward Reyes, center, is the president of the Dove Springs neighborhood association. He's planning to run for city council in District Two, as the city transitions to single-member district elections.
Kate McGee, KUT News

Since August of last year, KUT has been looking at the Dove Springs neighborhood in Southeast Austin in its Turning the Corner series. It’s a neighborhood trying to rise above the challenges of poverty – and one common theme that’s been repeated by residents is that they feel ignored.

Cynthia Valadez used to live in the Dove Springs neighborhood.

“That was the one area of Travis County and the City of Austin that failed to get the clinics, the offices, the grocery stores, the doctor’s offices," Valadez says. "Anything that’s health related didn’t go there. You couldn’t do anything in that community."

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Turning The Corner
8:18 am
Fri February 21, 2014

This Dove Springs Librarian Tells Austin Students to 'Get Mad' and Demand an Education

For the past 11 years, Ivan Cervantes has served as the librarian at Mendez Middle School. He began a program that allows students to use computers and play learning-oriented games before school each morning.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

This article is part of KUT's year-long series called Turning the Corner, which takes a look at Austin's Dove Springs neighborhood. For decades, the neighborhood has had a negative reputation. Now, many community members are trying to change the perception of the 78744 zip code. Listen to those stories here.

In low-income neighborhoods around Austin, 87 percent of children entering kindergarten are considered unprepared for school, which means many of them lack basic literacy skills. At Mendez Middle School in Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood, that struggle is obvious. Last year, less than half of Mendez sixth graders passed the state standardized test for reading. 

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Turning the Corner
9:16 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Men on Parole Search For Fresh Start in Austin's Dove Springs

A man who declined to be identified returns to the transitional housing facility known as The Cave.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

This article is part of KUT's year-long series called Turning the Corner, which takes a look at Austin's Dove Springs neighborhood. For decades, the neighborhood has had a negative reputation. Now, many community members are trying to change the perception of the 78744 zip code. 

KUT is documenting those efforts, the people trying to make a difference, the setbacks they face and how they work to overcome them. Listen to more stories here.

Dove Springs is the only neighborhood in Austin where you can find a parole office – one of the reasons more parolees end up in Southeast Austin than any other neighborhood.

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Halloween Floods
8:41 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Onion Creek Residents Worry About Mold After Halloween Floods

Many houses in the Dove Springs neighborhood remain damaged and uninhabitable after the Halloween Floods, and mold growth continues to be a significant problem in the area.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

The mostly uninhabited neighborhood of Onion Creek in southeast Austin has experienced some growth. But it’s growth the few neighbors who are back do not welcome.

Mold and mildew is growing in many of the homes that were left uninhabited after last year’s floods, which could create health problems for those living in Onion Creek.

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Turning the Corner
9:40 am
Fri January 24, 2014

How Music Kept This Dove Springs Student in School

Isay Medrano's absences to care for his ill mother put his school orchestra playing into jeopardy.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

  Chronic absenteeism is a common problem among low-income schools; Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood is no exception. The neighborhood has the largest concentration of high absenteeism students in the city – and teachers say there are some students who miss up to 40 days of school in one semester.

But many students aren’t skipping class to avoid schoolwork. Some lack transportation; others are dealing with health issues. Still, other have responsibilities like raising siblings or working to support their families.

Isay Medrano is one of those students.

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Turning the Corner
10:18 am
Fri January 10, 2014

In Dove Springs, Defying the Downward Trend in Teen Pregnancy

Damaris Covarrubias with her daughter Dalilah, 2, at the home she shares with her family.
Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

Damaris Covarrubias lives in Dove Springs, with her entire extended family. It is a huge family. So large in fact, that Damaris has never stopped to actually count how many there are.

“Okay, my grandparents, I think they had 9 kids. Cousins? I think there’s like 30 or 40 of us. Including the little ones? I don’t know. And now every cousin’s having babies so it keeps on growing and growing,” Covarrubias admits. 

The vast majority of her cousins have become parents while they were still in their teens, and that’s pretty typical for Dove Springs.

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Turning the Corner
12:04 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

This Austin Cop Builds Bonds in Dove Springs - One Soccer Game at a Time

APD Officer Paula Aguilar and her soccer team Chelsea.
Credit Joy Diaz, KUT News

In Southeast Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood, crime is a constant.

Ever since an uptick in crime in the 1990s, police have maintained a visible presence in the neighborhood – and residents of Dove Springs haven’t always had a favorable view of the Austin Police Department.

There was a time when the department’s relationship with Dove Springs was especially strained. During the summer of 2005, APD Officer Julie Schroeder shot and killed 18 year-old Dove Springs native Daniel Rocha.

A re-enactment video created by the department in investigating Rocha’s death is set on Pleasant Valley Road – one of Dove Springs’ main thoroughfares.

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Halloween Floods
9:49 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving in Dove Springs: How Families Are Celebrating After the Floods

Volunteers prepare Thanksgiving Dinner for Onion Creek flood victims Sunday. Overall, they served 120 meals and delivered dozens more to families affected in the area.
Connie Gonzaes, Facebook

As people are gearing up for Thanksgiving, many families impacted by last month’s flooding are still trying to put their lives back together.The floods severely damaged more than 600 homes and many of those people still don’t have a permanent place to stay.

But residents came together Sunday night to provide some flood victims with a Thanksgiving dinner and a place to escape the cold temperatures, if only for a few hours.

The event was organized by Dove Springs resident Robert Kibbie and Pastor Richard Villarreal with The Springs Community Church. Overall, 120 meals were served. Volunteers also delivered 60 meals to people who were not able to attend the actual event.

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Turning the Corner
12:04 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

LISTEN: How One Austin Family is Rebuilding After the Halloween Floods

Bene Jacobs, outside her destroyed home in Onion Creek. Jacobs, her partner and their children were rescued from their neighbor's roof.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

This year, KUT News is chronicling the challenges and changes affecting Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood in a series called “Turning the Corner.”

These stories have taken on added urgency in the aftermath of Austin’s Halloween floods, where flooding directly affected many Dove Springs residents. 

Bene Jacobs’ morning routine hasn’t changed that much. She still gets up before 6 a.m., before it’s light outside.

In the darkness, at her cousin’s house in Del Valle, Bene struggles to find her way into the room where her children sleep. “Still learning all the light switches,” she whispers.

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Dove Springs
5:04 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

With Help From a Church, Bluff Springs Reboots its Reading Program

Pastor Richard Villarreal reads "Aladdin" to fourth graders at Langford Elementary.
Roy Varney for KUT News

For the first time in five years, southeast Austin’s Langford Elementary School has a free book program.

Langford, where 65 percent of the students are learning English as a second language, is able to relaunch its Reading is Fundamental program with help from a neighborhood church.

Richard Villarreal is the lead pastor at Springs Community Church. He approached Langford principal Dounna Poth last spring and asked how his church could help the school. 

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Turning the Corner
10:13 am
Fri November 8, 2013

What Blockbuster Video Can Tell Us About Austin’s Digital Divide

While Blockbuster Video has fallen due to online video, the stores are doing well in a less digitally-connected part of Austin.
Flickr user trebomb, http://flic.kr/ps/dmXZU

Update: This week, Blockbuster Video announced it is closing its 300 remaining retail stores. It’s a bitter end for the rental chain, founded in Dallas, which once had 9,000 stores.

Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood contains two of the city’s three final Blockbuster stores. And unlike the company as a whole, those stores are thriving.

In the story below, KUT examines how forces behind the chain’s closure – the Internet and the rise of streaming video – are the same forces that have kept Dove Spring’s Blockbuster stores open for years.

Original story (Oct. 4): When was the last time you rented something from a Blockbuster Video?

Austin City Council member Laura Morrison’s recollection probably speaks for most of us. “My memory doesn’t go that far these days,” she says.

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Halloween Floods
6:00 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Nearly 200 Austin Students Are Homeless Because of Onion Creek Flooding

Bene Jacobs cradles her disabled ten-year-old son Isaac as he is fitted for a replacement wheel chair. Their Onion Creek area home was devastated by the Halloween floods.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The floods last Thursday in Onion Creek and Dove Springs damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes, displacing families – many of them with children. 

Bene Jacobs, her partner Lawrence, and their three children are one such family. They were rescued from the roof of her neighbor's home.

“My five year old was holding my 16 month old on top of the roof," she says.

While her family is okay, her home has been condemned.

“All of the walls are buckled and the tree fell on top of the roof so they said it’s no longer safe to enter the premise, so it’s fenced off," she says.

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