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Friday is deadline for Clark County survey on low-income needs

To assess the needs of those experiencing poverty, Clark County is attempting to go straight to the source.

The deadline is Friday to complete the Clark County Community Needs Survey, which opened Nov. 1 and is aimed at low-income residents. Results are intended to inform which county programs will be funded by federal Community Service Block Grant awards.

“We’re listening to the experts. That’s really what it comes down to,” said Rebecca Royce, a county Community Services program coordinator. “It’s not about just the people who are already engaging in social services, it’s about our entire community who considers themselves low-income.”

The county is required to conduct the survey every three years to receive the awards. For the period of Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, the county received $184,000 in federal funding and expects a similar amount in the ensuing period, said Michael Torres, a county Community Services program coordinator.

More than 100 local organizations have worked with the county to offer the survey, up from more than 60 in the 2017 edition. 

“We’ve been doing a lot of outreach to distribute the surveys and make them available to people who may need them,” Torres said.

Before releasing the survey every three years, the county tweaks it in order to elicit more accurate, complete data. This year’s edition includes slight changes to wording and categories. For instance, it separates behavioral and physical health — as opposed to the single health section in 2017 — to address the differences between the two topics.

“A lot of minor tweaking throughout the entire survey and then some expansion,” Royce said.

In 2017, the county received 1,165 responses out of the estimated 49,314 people at or below the federal poverty level in the county at the time.

Respondents didn’t match the county’s demographic makeup. For example, 69.2 percent of those who answered were white, while the county as a whole was 84.8 percent white.

But Torres said the discrepancies were predictable considering the differences in poverty levels between different races, genders, ages and other demographic areas. According to the survey, 10.2 percent of white residents were experiencing poverty compared to 20.9 percent of people of color.

“We’ve been pretty happy to see that it makes sense,” Torres said. “Despite the demographic composition of the county as a whole, the demographic composition of people who are experiencing poverty does disproportionately have people of color.”

Overall, food assistance, housing and utility assistance, and employment services — from most important to least important — were identified as Clark County’s top three needs out of 17 choices. As rent and housing prices continue to rise, Kate Budd, executive director of the Council for the Homeless, doesn’t expect that to change significantly this time.

“I would anticipate that and predict that that will be a top need,” Budd said.

The top three needs in housing — one of seven categories — were affordable and subsidized housing, rental assistance and move-in cost assistance, such as security deposits and application fees. In terms of employment, respondents pointed to ability to find a better job, finding any kind of job and having necessary supplies to become or remain employed.

“If you look at the last survey, the responses make sense,” Torres said. “The priorities are priorities that I would have for my own family.”

A few things also raised eyebrows. Royce pointed to the fact that 67 percent of respondents said someone in their family was employed.

“That was, kind of, dispelling that myth that people were not working or lazy,” Royce said. “We were able to show with all of the responses that that was not true.”

For organizations such as the Council for the Homeless, the benefits of having the survey results are two-fold, Budd said. It can inform which specific needs to target while also serving as a source of information when applying for grants.

“It helps to provide validity to the needs that we’re trying to address in our community,” Budd said. “It just makes a stronger argument as an opportunity for funding.”

The confidential survey takes an estimated 15 minutes to complete and is available in English, Spanish, Russian and Vietnamese online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/2020CNANeedsSurvey. Paper copies, also in Chuukese, are available from numerous agencies that offer housing, food, clothing, employment assistance and other human services. Copies are also available by contacting Royce at 546-397-7863 or at rebecca.royce@clark.wa.gov.

The report with results from the survey — typically about 50 pages long —is due in November.


Source: https://www.columbian.com

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