Dove Springs: Turning the Corner

Southeast Austin’s Dove Springs is a neighborhood in transition.  

Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

Bound by Ben White, William Cannon, Pleasant Valley and Interstate 35, the area was originally a predominantly middle-class suburb. But after the closure of nearby Bergstrom Air Force Base in the 1990's, Dove Springs became a community marked by juvenile gang violence, drugs and poverty. 

While some of that crime has dissipated, Dove Springs still has one of the highest reported crime rates in Travis County. Two-thirds of the neighborhood population is Hispanic, making it one of the most rapidly growing immigrant neighborhoods in Austin. 

On Oct. 31, 2013,  Dove Springs was faced with an additional challenge: part of the neighborhood was submerged underwater during the Onion Creek floods. More than 600 homes were heavily damaged and 200 students were initially displaced. 

When KUT  began this series, the goal was to document the neighborhood's successes and setbacks. “Dove Springs: Turning the Corner” looks at how local, state and educational policies affect the neighborhood – everything from city council representation to childhood obesity. And while it will continue to examine those ideas in-depth, it will also follow the community as it rebuilds from the floods. 

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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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Halloween Floods
2:41 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Austin to Receive Federal Funds to Buyout Homes in Onion Creek

The city of Austin has been awarded $11.8 million to buy out homes in the flood-prone Onion Creek neighborhood.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The federal government is sending $11.8 million to Travis County to help buy out homes in the flood-prone Onion Creek neighborhood.

More than 600 homes in the area were damaged or destroyed in last October’s flooding, but Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s office says the effort to buy out homes and restore the area to its natural habitat goes back to another flash flood there in 1998.

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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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Austin
10:18 am
Thu February 13, 2014

City Council Poised to Decide on 'Stealth Dorm' Regulations

The Dove Springs neighborhood has many homes that could be considered "stealth dorms" under a new occupancy reduction ordinance.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The city of Austin limits the number of unrelated adults who can live in a single-family home. Right now, that limit is six.

But there’s a push before the Austin City Council to lower that number to four.  The Austin City Council meets today to decide whether to impose new rules that would lower occupancy limits – and do away with what some call “stealth dorms.”

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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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Austin
3:06 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

MLK Day Cleanup Rids Flood-Stricken Onion Creek Park of Debris

Onion Creek Park in southeast Austin was covered with debris after the flood in October 2013. The playground area is still inaccessible.
Joy Diaz/KUT

The flood-stricken neighborhood of Onion Creek honored the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today by cleaning a community park that’s been covered with debris since last year’s Halloween flood.

Metallic doors, glass from broken windows, gas tanks were among the many items strewn about the park. Mary-Lee Plumb-Mentjes filled an entire bucket with broken glass. “I’ve always picked up trash,” Plumb-Mentjes said. “We’ve been given two hands [and] I feel we should use [them] when we see something,”

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Halloween Flood
6:48 am
Thu January 16, 2014

Why Some Flood Homeowners Think Twice Before Selling to the City of Austin

The aftermath of the Halloween flooding in the Onion Creek neighborhood.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT

The city of Austin has made offers to buy at least two dozen homes damaged by the Halloween flood. Why then, are some homeowners refusing to sell?

Floods are nothing new in South East Austin’s Onion Creek neighborhood. And neither is the city’s buyout program. It began back in 1998. The idea has always been to buy homes in the floodplain using taxpayer money to avoid future loss of life and property damages.

Terry Morris, a contractor and a real estate agent in Austin, owns a duplex in Onion Creek that’s been on the city’s buyout list for years. He recently opted out of the program.

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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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Halloween Floods
1:03 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Travis County Provides Tax Relief for Flood Victims

In this Nov. 4 photo, Maria Isabel Fabian tries to salvage an heirloom tablecloth from her flood-damaged home in Dove Springs. Fabian is one of over 600 who qualify for tax relief from Travis County.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

It is property tax season and, for the people affected by last October’s floods, there will be some relief. The disaster declaration Texas Governor Rick Perry signed in December means flood victims can have their properties re-assessed and can make their payments in installments.

The relief will be small, since it will only cover the months of November and December, but Travis County Tax Assessor Bruce Elfant said at a press conference today that, for over 600 properties, the relief means they’ll have a smaller tax payment. 

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Halloween Floods
8:07 am
Wed December 18, 2013

After Flooding, Medical Care Remains Critical in Dove Springs

Mayra Lopez, a promotora de salud with the Latino Health Care Forum, spoke at the Dove Springs Recreation Center on Dec. 17, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Community health workers – or promotoras de salud – with the Latino Health Care Forum are collecting data about people still living in Dove Springs after the Halloween floods.

"We have heard a lot of really sad stories …you just start crying," says promotora Norma Lopez. “We’re going to be working on-hand with our people. Refer them to whatever they need, any kind of help.”

Promotoras say they spent about a month getting feedback from people who still need help, especially medical care. The results will identify Dove Springs families still in need.

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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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