Community Needs Assessment
The ASSIST Agency is a Community Action Agency that provides services to economically challenged individuals, families, and communities in Southwestern Louisiana. We have offices in Acadia, Jefferson Davis and Vermilion Parishes. Community Action Agencies such as ours are often charged with filling the gap in services available to those in need. As such, it is our responsibility to discover what gaps in services exist in our community, determine if a particular program is needed and to develop program priorities in order to raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life for all of the communities.
In an effort to better understand the needs and resources available in the three-parish area, the ASSIST Agency conducted a community-wide survey during the month of September, 2015. Over 100 surveys were sent to various people and organizations, including: Board Members, Community Based Organizations, Educational Institutions, Faith-Based Organizations, Private Organizations and the Public Sector. A total of 20 survey forms were completed and returned; ten from Acadia Parish, five from Jefferson Davis parish and five from Vermilion Parish. Responders where from the following: Board Members – 9, Community Based Organizations – 1, Educational Institutions – 2, and Public Sector – 8. Both the Faith-based and the Private Organizations did not return any surveys.
Each respondent was asked four questions, with questions number two and four varying slightly depending on which sector they represented. 1. In what parish(s) do you live or work? 2. Based on your experience and the request/assistance for assistance or of living in and representing your community, what are the most pressing needs of the community? List the top five unmet needs. 3. Can you identify any organization or government entity that is addressing these needs? 4. Please provide recommendations regarding the types of services that would help meet the needs identified or do you have any suggestions regarding the types of services that would help meet the needs?
The response to the most pressing need in the community was very broad in the scope of problems identified but some responses were repeated several times and across parish lines. Jobs topped the needs list as well as being indicated in all three parishes. Affordable Housing, Transportation and Utility, Rent/Mortgage assistance was right behind. Of special note was that the vast majority (84%) of the community needs identified also had one or more National Performance Indicators (NPI) that was linked to it. Fifty-eight of the reported community needs (70%) are issues that the ASSIST Agency can address in-house on a full or limited basis and/or in partnership. Sixteen of the needs reported (19%) were items that the agency could address by referral to other local or governmental agencies or organizations. Four of the non-NPI identifiers are really local and/or state government issues, roads, drainage, trash and crime. The remaining five indicators are needs that there is no agency or organization addressing on a consistent basis. These are help for grandparents raising kids, educational supplies for homework, housing security, and car payment assistance.
Question 3 asked if they could identify any organization or government entity that is addressing these issues. The ASSIST Agency has two-hundred and seventy-six organizations that it currently works with to help the low-income clients with a variety of services. While twenty of the thirty organizations listed in the surveys are also part of the one we currently work with, ten organizations are not. Some of the areas addressed by these organizations are not the typical ones that are in the realm of its current collaborations but could fit as a point of referral. The agency has worked with some of these, such as Goodwill, when trying to meet client needs and need to be added to its referral database. ASSIST will need to explore the possibility of partnering with most if not all of these organizations in the future. LiHEAP, which was listed on the survey as an entity is actually a program and should be regarded as such.
Question 4, please provide recommendations regarding the types of services that would help meet the needs identified or do you have any suggestions regarding the types of services that would help meet the needs helps us to analyze the services we currently offer and the services needed by the community. High on the list was putting people to work and a variety of health care issues. A number of other community services needs included some form of education or emergency assistance. Other suggestions touched on issues that were out of the box for our agency but items we should consider addressing, such as increasing and strengthening our partnerships, working with our government officials to increase their awareness of the problems in the community and providing a brochure that gives clients and care providers a tool in which they can utilize in finding the right help needed to ameliorate their problems.
In summation, in order to help low-income people become more self-sufficient, we need to continue and expand the services we provide with Employment, Employment Supports, Employment Asset Enhancement and Utilization, Emergency Assistance, Child and Family Development and Family Supports. We need to expand our Community Engagement and Community-Wide Partnerships so that their lives are improved. Increasing our capacity to achieve results is a goal that was requires our attention so that not only the agency but low-income families and communities are strengthened. The information obtained from this assessment will be utilized in strategic planning and program evaluation. All programs are also evaluated as to meeting the mission of ASSIST Agency, to elevate the standard of living and improve the quality of life for economically challenged individuals, families, and communities in southwest Louisiana.