Affordable Housing, Education and Support Services in a Single Campus Community: Introducing The Works!

I am so proud and excited to announce the Grand Opening of The Works!

The Works is a 45-unit housing complex that will provide safe, affordable housing for individuals and families, including many LifeWorks clients. Located next to LifeWorks east Austin campus, and just two blocks from the Austin Community College Eastview Campus, The Works is the first community of its kind in the country, offering affordable housing, extensive support services and access to education and job training – all within short walking distance.

The Works is the result of years of hard work by dozens of individuals, both from LifeWorks, and from our many partners and supporters. As advocates for young people and young families, we know that a safe, enduring home is one of the crucial pillars for creating the type of positive environment where self-sufficiency – and stable families – can thrive.

We believe that The Works will demonstrate how affordable housing combined with nearby access to support services and education can provide tangible, lasting benefits to individuals striving to achieve self-sufficiency. 

Please Join Us for The Works Grand Opening on Friday, January 17 at 10 a.m.

Residents start moving in to The Works this week, and we’re hosting a Grand Opening on Fri., Jan. 17. On that day, some of our new residents will have their homes decorated and furnished by the teams and local businesses participating in our 9th Annual Home Improvement Challenge. These teams donate time, effort and merchandise to transform apartments into homes for LifeWorks clients. This year, more than 15 local organizations are taking part in The Home Improvement Challenge, including Capital One Bank, New York Life, H-E-B, Grace Covenant Church, Adometry/Together Mobile, Dell and the Human Rights Campaign.   

Seeing our new residents move in to The Works is a dream realized for all of us.

And we are so happy for our clients and residents who once thought a home was out of reach. Now we get to see their dreams come true.


2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Help us Create a Home


In December, LifeWorks takes another huge leap forward in our mission to help youth and families achieve self-sufficiency by moving the first residents into The Works at Pleasant Valley – LifeWorks’ 45-unit affordable housing apartment complex.

Each night we house more than 80 youth/young adults who are aging out of foster care, parenting or are formerly homeless.  The Works will provide residents the services, education and support necessary to promote self-sufficiency while increasing our housing capacity by more than 50%.

But providing a house is not necessarily creating a home.  Many of our youth have been in 15-20 foster care placements and have never had their own furniture or even a room painted their favorite color.  These might seem like small things but they greatly add to a sense of dignity and security that will impact every goal they set for themselves.

On January 17th and 18th, LifeWorks will host our 9th annual Home Improvement Challenge and furnish 20 apartments for youth who are either young parents or aging out of foster care.  While not every resident at The Works will be a Home Improvement Challenge recipient, those that are selected have demonstrated an ethic of hard work and their determination to succeed.  We want to do everything we can to support their continued success.

WE NEED YOUR HELP….we are seeking donations of new/gently used apartment-sized furniture, new/gently used kitchen items, and/or gift cards to Target, Walmart, IKEA or HEB to help us furnish these new HOMES for our youth.  Please contact Brett Barnes ( to learn about how to get your company, church, school, or family involved.

LifeWorks is a fearless advocate for youth and families seeking their path to self-sufficiency. We are committed to innovative problem solving, shared accountability and a relentless focus on achieving real, sustainable and measurable results for the clients we serve.

With you as our partner, we are changing lives and giving deserving young people hope that can be passed on from generation to generation.


Creating a Safer Community

New Data Shows Resolution Counseling Effective in Reducing Domestic Violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Every day at LifeWorks, we work with individuals whose lives have been shattered by domestic violence, including victims, perpetrators, and children growing up in these unsafe, unstable environments.

Which is why we’re so excited about the results of an independent study that demonstrates the effectiveness of a LifeWorks’ program developed to end the generational cycle of family violence.

Resolution Counseling Emphasizes Responsibility and Communication.

Violence is often a learned behavior. Every year in the United States, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes. And because children repeat what they learn from adults, the tragedy becomes trans-generational. In fact, boys who grow up in abusive homes are significantly more likely to become abusers than boys raised in nonviolent homes. (Violence Against Women: Victims of the System, U.S. Senate Commission on the Judiciary).

For more than 20 years, LifeWorks has offered Resolution Counseling to adults who have been accused of partner violence. The program serves 1,000 individuals annually, and is one of the only resources of its kind in our community.

In LifeWorks’ Resolution Counseling, individuals accused of domestic violence learn to:

  • take responsibility for violent and abusive behavior
  • understand the dynamics of power and control
  • recognize the effects of violence on the family
  • learn communication and conflict resolution skills in order to manage emotions in non-aggressive ways

Study Demonstrates Effectiveness of Resolution Counseling.

According to a new study conducted by Liz Schoenfeld, Ph.D.(c), and Dr. Timothy Loving of the University of Texas at Austin, Resolution Counseling was associated with a reduced likelihood of being convicted of another domestic violence offense after exiting the program. Furthermore, the study demonstrated that for men in the program who were abused as children—the population most at risk of reoffending—participating in more sessions was associated with fewer domestic violence convictions upon exiting the program. In fact, completing more sessions was associated with fewer convictions of any kind.

Stronger Families Lead to Self-Sufficiency.

As a community, we must commit to getting those responsible for domestic violence into services as soon as possible. Too often, months or even years go by before offenders are prosecuted and assigned to services. Accountability must begin as close to the offense as possible. This is critical to ending the generational cycle of abuse. 

LifeWorks is a fearless advocate for youth and families seeking their path to self-sufficiency. We are committed to innovative problem solving, shared accountability and a relentless focus on achieving real, sustainable and measurable results for the clients we serve. The ability to have healthy relationships based on equality is a critical component to family self-sufficiency. 

By working together we CAN create a community where children grow up in safe homes that encourage and support their lifelong potential.

-Susan McDowell 

View Resolution Counseling in Action 

Housing that Works for Austin


It is no secret that housing prices in Austin are through the roof.  We are now one of the ten most expensive rental markets in the country. As many as 38,000 Austin area families cannot find affordable housing. Many are service industry workers, child care providers, construction workers or even public employees. They’re literally being priced out of town.

Last month, Austin City Council voted unanimously to put $65 million in affordable housing bonds on the November 5th ballot.  These funds would be used in partnership with private and non-profit organizations to build thousands of attractive houses and apartments all over the city and renovate and repair existing houses to help seniors stay in their homes.  The funding has significant leverage – project developers would use them to “match” many times their value in state, federal, private and philanthropic dollars. 

This issue is especially poignant for LifeWorks for two reasons: 

First, for the youth we serve – teenage parents, youth aging out of foster care, and young adults who have experienced cycles of homelessness – the challenge of finding and maintaining safe housing is particularly acute.  Twenty-five percent of youth aging out of care experience homelessness within 6 months of leaving care, making them one of the most at-risk groups for homelessness.  Without a safe place to live, these young adults cannot focus on the education, job training, or other services that would lead them to self-sufficiency.  They are caught in a vicious cycle of crisis services, and their potential does not move forward. 

Second, we are using the very last of the $55 million bond funding that Austin approved in 2006.  In December of this year we will complete The Works at Pleasant Valley, a 45 unit apartment development on the campus of our Sooch Foundation Youth and Family Resource Center.  We leveraged $600,000 in Bond funding for a $6,000,000 project that will serve the most economically vulnerable of Austin’s youth and families.  Not only will they receive supportive services through LifeWorks, but The Works is next door to Austin Community College’s Eastview Campus, creating access to a wide range of educational and workforce training opportunities.

Local funding for Affordable Housing is absolutely necessary if we are going to build new housing, and to do so in the uniquely Austin fashion of innovation.  LifeWorks is a proud part of Keep Austin Affordable  a coalition of business, faith and community leaders calling for investment in affordable housing by putting city bonds back on the ballot in November 2013.  Please see their website  to learn more about how we can make headway on this critical issue.

 Check out what YNN has to say about The Works and stay tuned for the grand opening later this Fall!!!

LifeWorks receives 5 Star Green Building status



I am excited to announce that LifeWorks Sooch Foundation Youth and Family Resource Center has been awarded 5 Star Green Building status from Austin Energy – the highest possible standing and only the fourth building in Austin to achieve it. 

This designation reflects our commitment to both environmental and fiscal responsibility. It also offers hope and a great lesson around green building for the nonprofit community. As a sector, we face obvious financial constraints, but we often let that prematurely limit our creativity.

Developing the Sooch Center involved a continual conversation and negotiation around our functional, design and environmental goals. With the best minds around the table – including Miro Rivera, American Campus Communities, SpawGlass, dedicated Board and staff members– these conversations were often heated but never settled for the idea that there was anything we COULDN’T do.

More often, we agreed that some things would have to come before others, and that we’d just have to go out and find the right partnerships to make them all happen. 

With Meridian Solar and Austin Energy, we found a way to produce 80% of the power for the 31,000 square foot building and (because we did not have the money to purchase) to do so in a way that is fiscally responsible for the organization.

While we are not the first nonprofit to implement solar arrays, we are the first in Austin to take advantage of this leasing arrangement.

Others are doing the same. I hope more do. I also hope that it serves as a larger reminder that the greatest resource for the nonprofit community in Austin is the incredible wealth of irreverent creativity that sees “we can’t afford it” as a call to action rather than an excuse to do less than we should.

How $25 can change a life


When we think of having an impact on someone’s life, we often visualize people who donate millions of dollars or give thousands of volunteer hours. And while these are certainly valid (and desired) in the non-profit world, it is amazing how simply donating $25 can truly have a major impact on a life…especially here at LifeWorks.

So what CAN $25 do…

  • $25 pays for an Adult Basic Education workbook that will give the gift of reading to a young mom that wants to have story time with her children or to a father struggling to lift his family out of the poverty cycle he has been stuck in since he was a small child. 17% of Travis County adults can’t read above a 5th grade level.

  • $25 covers the cost of a counseling session for a young person or family, living below the poverty level and with no systems of support, which desperately needs someone to talk to and listen as they face a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.  20% of Travis County youth and adults suffer from a debilitating mental illness.
  • $25 provides a homeless youth a new backpack. When living on the streets, this is the easiest and safest way to carry and protect all your worldly possessions. Every night in Austin over 500 youth under the age of 18 have no safe place to sleep.
  • $25 helps provide a bus pass for a month so that a foster youth can get to school or work. 1 out of 4 foster youth will be homeless 2-6 months after turning 18 years old because they lack the support and learned skills to provide for themselves.$25 helps buy diapers and formula for a teen mom that is faced with homelessness if it weren’t for LifeWorks.  Texas is #3 in the nation in teenage pregnancy and #2 in repeat pregnanci

Last year, LifeWorks served over 11,000 youth and families in our community that were in crisis. Our goal is to place these individuals on a path of success and self-sufficiency.  As you can imagine, each journey is different.  LifeWorks is there to help and be that empowering support system built around trust for those youth and individuals who have been let down by so many, for so long.

Imagine if hundreds or even thousands of $25 gifts were sent to LifeWorks. The impact would be incredible. Help us amplify our work by giving to LifeWorks during #AmplifyAustin! Together we can make change that will last a lifetime!