Community Needs Assessment
The ASSIST Agency is a Community Action Agency that provides services to economically challenged individuals, families, and communities in the parishes of Acadia, Jeff Davis and Vermilion. We have offices in Crowley, Jennings and Abbeville. 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.
This Community Needs Assessment will allow our agency to:
· understand the needs of economically insecure residents in the community,
· what role our agency will play in meeting those needs,
· identify economic and social resources as well as partnership opportunities that can help meet the needs,
· identify significant public policy issues,
· educate the community about the identified needs,
· provide input on policies and strategies,
In an effort to better understand the needs and resources available in the three-parish area, the ASSIST Agency utilized various methods of collecting data including surveys of the clients, community leaders, online tools, and the ALICE Report.
In the first approach, the agency conducts a year round survey of the clients that ask them to determine the causes or symptoms that may be causing their economic challenges and another one that asks them what services they are in need of. For the time period of July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017, 600 surveys were submitted in Acadia Parish, 81 in Jeff Davis Parish, and 439 in Vermilion Parishes for a total of 1,120 surveys. The demographics of those submitting a survey was recorded to ensure a broad sector of the community were involved. This included 71.5% Female, 28.5% Male, 3.2% Hispanic, 44.1% White, 52.6% Black, 0.6% Native American, 0.4% Asian/Native Hawaiian, 1.4% Other, 0.9% Multi-Race, 50.8% under the age of 55 and 49.2% 55 and over, 45.2% Employed and 54.8% Not Employed.
Utilizing the survey of the causes or symptoms that may be causing their economic challenges, the clients ranked them, with the results and the points and percentages as follows:
1. High cost of energy 5,740 18.3%
2. Lack of affordable housing 3,595 11.4%
3. High cost of food 3,526 11.2%
4. Low paying jobs 3,171 10.1%
5. Lack of affordable health care 2,663 8.5%
6. Lack of jobs 2,608 8.3%
7. Lack of health care 2,149 6.8%
8. Lack of job skills 1,599 5.1%
9. Lack of transportation 1,432 4.6%
10. Lack of education 1,302 4.1%
11. Nutritional needs 956 3.0%
12. High school dropout 638 2.0%
13. Substance abuse 488 1.6%
14. Domestic violence 438 1.4%
15. High cost of clothing 384 1.2%
16. Crime 315 1.0%
17. Emergency/Disaster 190 0.6%
18. Teen pregnancy 147 0.5%
19. Affordable child care 75 0.2%
20. Cost of Christmas toys 10 0.0%
The agency also broke these numbers down by parish and while for the most part they followed a trend, some of the outcomes did record a difference. In Acadia Parish, the high cost of food was ranked number two overall while it was number four in Jeff Davis, and number seven in Vermilion.
In the Services Needed Assessment, the clients checked-off or wrote in a total of thirty line items. The services needed rankings, the number reporting and the percentage reporting is as follows:
1. Income Tax Assistance 594 17.9%
2. Utility Assistance 512 15.5%
3. Rental Assistance 259 7.8%
4. Food 257 7.8%
5. Employment 245 7.4%
6. Health Care 208 6.3%
7. Medicine 142 4.3%
8. Dental Assistance 141 4.3%
9. Housing 116 3.5%
10. Vision Care 106 3.2%
11. Transportation 100 3.0%
12. Job Training 94 2.8%
13. GED 89 2.7%
14. Clothing 61 1.8%
15. Toys-for-Tots 60 1.8%
16. Rent Subsidy 56 1.7%
17. Substance Abuse Assistance 35 1.1%
18. Tuition Assistance 33 1.0%
19. Mortgage Assistance 32 1.0%
20. Disaster/Emergency Assistance 31 0.9%
21. Domestic Violence Protection 29 0.9%
22. Emergency Shelter 19 0.6%
23. Voter Registration 18 0.5%
24. Legal Assistance 17 0.5%
25T. Child Care 16 0.5%
25T. Financial Counseling 16 0.5%
27. Home Loan 9 0.3%
28. Information & Referral 8 0.2%
29. Food Stamps/SNAP 6 0.2%
30. Business Loan 2 0.1%
The clients were allowed to choose as many services needed as required. The agency also broke these numbers down by parish.
The second survey the ASSIST Agency conducted was a community-wide survey during the month of October, 2017. 124 surveys were sent to various people and organizations, including: 11 to Board Members, 28 to Community Based Organizations, 15 to Educational Institutions, 2 to Faith-Based Organizations, 55 to Private Organizations, and 13 to the Public Sector. A total of 9 survey forms were completed and returned; four from Acadia Parish, three from Acadia/Vermilion Parish, and two from the combined parishes of Acadia/Jefferson Davis/Vermilion. Responders were from the following: Community Based Organizations – 3, Educational Institutions – 2, Private – 3 and Public Sector – 1. Both the Faith-based and the Board 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 Question 2, 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. Affordable Housing and Transportation topped the needs list at six as well as being indicated in all three parishes. Food was slightly behind at five respondents and Jobs followed at four. Homeless Shelter, Health Care and Mental Health Services came in next at three apiece. Utility Assistance, High School Diploma/GED, and After School Programs were next at two each. Those with one submission each included Financial Assistance, Legal Assistance, Supportive Services, Prescription Medication, Parenting Skills Classes, Behavioral Issues with Children, Financial Education, Interview Skills, Life Coaching and Substance Abuse Assistance.
Question 3 asked if they could identify any organization or government entity that is addressing these issues. The ASSIST Agency has worked with over 200 organizations and government entities to help the low-income clients with a variety of services. Of the 15 organizations listed in the surveys our agency has worked with all of them at one time or another. Some of the areas addressed by these organizations fit only 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 again 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. This question helps us to analyze the services we currently offer and the services needed by the community. Only two items made the list more than once, Transportation and Community Gardens. Some of the other community services needs included Job Fairs, Rental Assistance, Utility Assistance, Food, Legal Assistance, some form of wrap around services/case management, and a variety of health care issues. All of these suggestions are areas our agency addresses directly and/or through referral.
The online tool that the ASSIST Agency utilized was the Community Action Partnership Community Needs Assessment Online Tool. This report, 81 pages in all, covers Population Profile, Employment, Housing, Income, Nutrition, and Health Care for our three parish service area.
CAP Online Population Profile Assessment – This data category show that our area had a 5.97% growth in population from 2010 to 2015 with a total population of 152,707. Vermilion Parish had the largest increase while Jeff Davis actually lost a total of one person. The state of Louisiana had a smaller increase of only 3.5% but the United States increased by 12.47%. According to the ACS 2011-2015 5-year population estimates for the report area, the female population comprised 51.81% of the report area, while the male population represented 48.19%. The female Hispanic population comprised 2.32% of the female gender while the male Hispanic population was 2.55% of the male gender. According to the same 5 year population estimates, the white population comprised 80.44% of the report area, black population represented 16.2%, and other races combined were 3.37%. Persons identifying themselves as mixed race made up 1.88% of the population. The 2015 poverty estimates show a total of 31,530 (20.82%) persons living below the poverty level in the area. The 2015 poverty estimates for Acadia Parish is 14,559 (23.7%), Jeff Davis is 6,245 (20.3%) and Vermilion is 10,726 (18.1%). The rate of change in poverty for the reported area, from 2000 to 2015, increased by 2.35% compared to a 2.18% for the state average. Acadia increased by 4.1%, Jeff Davis by 2.3% and Vermilion by 0.6%. The percentage of poverty by gender was females 23.1% and males 15.94%. The percentage of Hispanics in poverty was 27.62%. The population in poverty by race was White 18,204, Black 9,536, Native American 197, Asian 319, Native Hawaiian 15, some other race 120, and Multiple Races 989.
CAP Online Employment Assessment – The data for the Area Labor Force of 63,893 has 5,174 people whom are unemployed resulting in an Unemployment Rate of 8.1%. The Unemployment Rate for Acadia, 8.4% and Vermilion, 8.5%, are above the 6.9% rate for the state while Jeff Davis’ rate of 6.8% is just below it.
CAP Online Education Assessment – The percentage of the population over the age of 25 in the three parish area with no high school diploma is 24.22%. The percentage for Acadia is 26.21%, Jeff Davis 21.23% and Vermilion 23.77% while the state of Louisiana has a much lower rate at 16.61%. The adult literacy rate for the area is 18.39%, which is 2.39% above the state rate of 16.0%.
CAP Online Housing Assessment – This data category revealed of the 66,606 area residential addresses 2,964 were vacant, resulting in a vacancy rate of 4.5%. The vacancy rate for Acadia is 4.6%, Jeff Davis 3.6% and Vermilion at 4.7% with all of them above the state rate of 2.5%. The number of Unsafe, Unsanitary Homes for the report is 386 units or 0.69%. The number of Unsafe, Unsanitary Homes for Acadia is 108 (0.48%), Jeff Davis 59 (0.51%) and Vermilion 219 (1.0%). Again the state of Louisiana was lower at 0.43%.
CAP Online Income Assessment – The income levels for this data category includes Median Household Income and Per Capita Income. The Median Household Income for Acadia Parish is $37,649 and Jeff Davis $39,063 is below the state median of $45,047 while Vermilion is slightly higher at $45,374. The Per Capita Income for Acadia is $20,552, Jeff Davis $22,260 and Vermilion $23,261, which are all lower than the state’s $24,981.
CAP Online Nutrition Assessment – The number and percentage in this data category receiving free/reduced price lunch in the area is 15,710 (59.43%), which includes Acadia 6,181 (61.48%), Jeff Davis 3,412 (58.74%) and Vermilion 6,117 (57.85%). The percentage for the state is 63.6%, which is higher, and 52.12% for the US, which is lower than the three parish area. The number and percentage in this data category receiving SNAP payments in the area is 10,745 (19.2%), which includes Acadia 4,769 (21.1%), Jeff Davis 2,128 (18.26%) and Vermilion 3,848 (17.65%). The percentage receiving SNAP across the state is lower at 16.31%.
CAP Online Health Care Assessment – The number of persons over the age of 65 receiving Medicare for this data category in our service area is 20,378. The number of disabled persons receiving Medicare in our service area is 5,444. The disabled persons receiving Medicare in Acadia is 2,376, Jeff Davis 1,141, and Vermilion 1,927. The uninsured population for the three parish service are 19,701 (12.9%) which included 8,181 (13.16%) in Acadia, 3,750 (11.93%) in Jeff Davis, and 7,770 (13.14%) in Vermilion. All three parishes are higher than the 11.64% for the state and 9.21% nationally.
United Ways throughout Louisiana released a study of financial hardship of households called ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. The United Way ALICE Project first came out for our area in 2015-16 and has been updated for 2016-17 providing 2014 data. The ALICE Project provides a framework, language, and tools to measure and understand the struggles of the growing number of households in our communities who are above the poverty level but who still do not earn enough to afford basic necessities. This report provides the cost of basic needs in the Household Survival Budget for each parish and the number of households earning below this amount.
The ALICE bare-minimum Household Survival Budget for Acadia Parish for a single adult is $16,212 as compared to the poverty level of $11,670. The percent of Acadia Parish households below the ALICE Threshold is 23% and below the poverty level is 21% for a combined 44% of households in the parish that struggle.
The ALICE bare-minimum Household Survival Budget for Jeff Davis Parish for a single adult is $16,356 as compared to the poverty level of $11,670. The percent of Jeff Davis Parish households below the ALICE Threshold is 22% and below the poverty level is 22% for a combined 44% of households in the parish that struggle.
The ALICE bare-minimum Household Survival Budget for Vermilion Parish for a single adult is $16,620 as compared to the poverty level of $11,670. The percent of Vermilion Parish households below the ALICE Threshold is 18% and below the poverty level is 18% for a combined 36% of households in the parish that struggle.
The vast majority of the community needs and assets identified had one or more National Performance Indicators (NPI) that was linked to it. Nineteen of the twenty reported causes or symptoms causing survey participants economic challenges (95%) are issues that the ASSIST Agency can address in-house on a full or limited basis and/or in partnership with other agencies or organizations. The thirty reported services needed assessment by survey participants can also be address in-house on a full or limited basis and/or in partnership with other agencies or organizations. Ten of the needs reported (33.3%) were items that the agency could address by referral to other local or governmental agencies or organizations. One of the identifiers is really a local and/or state government issues, crime. Some of the indicators are needs that no agency or organization is addressing on a consistent basis. These are help for grandparents raising kids, children behavioral issues, and educational supplies for homework.
Employment Services: The assessment identified that there is a need in this category in both the client survey and the community survey. More jobs opportunities are needed in the community as well as better paying jobs that can be hard to come by. The number of unemployed is higher in our area than the state average. The ASSIST Agency is able to help the individuals seeking employment with career counseling, job search and employment supplies. By linking with WIOA, the local community colleges located within each of our three parishes as well as LSUE, UL-Lafayette and McNeese State University, we are better able to addresses the need for skills training. The agency also refers clients to job fairs and hiring events. The agency also has daycare centers to assist families with childcare so that they can obtain or maintain employment. The current problem in the Acadia and Vermilion Parish area is that they are located in the region that is ranked third for being in an economic slump. As a result, many business are not hiring, have moved, or they closed down altogether. Jeff Davis is located within driving distance of the Lake Charles metropolitan area which is currently in a boom with construction of many new petrochemical plants or the expansion thereof.
Education and Cognitive Development Services: The education assessment revealed the need across a wide spectrum of ages, from children in early-childhood education to post-college. The agency has day care centers in Church Point and Rayne that prepares them to enter school. We also provide extra-curricular programs such as the Summer Youth Recreational and Education programs. IDA programs are provided to help adults enter college and obtain employment skills.
Income and Asset Building Services: The agency has utilized funding from United Way of Acadiana to develop and implement Individual Development Accounts (IDA) to help those in the community increase their savings so that they can further their education or to obtain assets such as home or automobile. The agency has also partnered with USDA to provide low-interest loans so that people can start or expand new businesses. The agency also works with EITC clients so that when they get their tax refunds they do not spend it on unnecessary items but try and budget it correctly so that they can maintain an emergency fund.
Housing Services: Safe and affordable housing was the main point of this category. The agency, while being a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO), relies on organizations, government agencies and business partners to meet the range of housing services from counseling to rental assistance to home ownership. Some of the non-profit organizations the agency has worked with include Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity. HUD, Louisiana Housing Corporation and local housing authorities are the governmental agencies that the ASSIST Agency relies on most often. Businesses the agency has collaborated with include IberiaBank, M & T Development, MAC-RE and Gaudet &Tolson. The main unmet need continues to be with safe and decent rental housing that is affordable. The agency has worked with some of the landlords in the area to try and correct this problem but it still persists.
Health and Social/Behavioral Development: The agency has support systems in place for these areas to help those staying at our emergency shelter to help them achieve a stable, healthy life. The Parish Health Units as well as the University Hospital and Clinics provide the health care services many in our community rely on. We also rely on Region IV Behavioral Health to provide mental health care and substance abuse recovery services for our clients. A problem we are seeing more of is for those who are working at low-paying jobs to be able to afford health care, including vision and dental health care. The numbers in this area expressing a need for services in our survey has gone up from the previous surveys. This is a large problem that we must reluctantly rely on the Federal government to help find a solution as the cost is prohibitive for any organization to try and undertake. With the recent expansion of Medicaid in the State of Louisiana, some of those costs are now covered and more people are eligible for coverage. The agency is a certified Medicaid application center and works to reach people, who are eligible to receive Medicaid benefits and help them apply,
Civic Engagement and Community Involvement Services: The agency strives to assist clients with voter registration and providing sample ballots at our offices. The Tri-partite Board stays full at 18 members and is active in the leadership of the agency. The agency is also able to recruit volunteers when the need arises to help the agency meet the needs of the community. The agency maintains an excellent working relationship with many throughout our community, especially the elected officials. The challenge is to maintain this relationship through all the changes that inevitably come with the turnover in the election cycle. Our staff and board members are also active in speaking or participating in collaborative community events.
Services Supporting Increased Capacity to Support Growth in New Directions: 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. The brochure to provide needed information is mainly addressed by referring inquires to the local 211 agency, 232-HELP. This process works better than brochures since they can quickly respond to changes in needs and resources available. Taking advantage of neighboring parishes economic growth is an option that needs to occur but several factors must first be addressed, including transportation and job skills training. One growth area would be the expansion of current programs that are administered in one parish into the other two parishes, such as with the recent Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) application, with expansion to include Vermilion and Jeff Davis Parishes. This requires that the agency also have the capacity to attend the Balance of State CoC meetings, which is a requirement of these grants.
In summation, in order to help low-income people become more self-sufficient, we need to not only continue our current programs that help to improve family and individual economic security but expand the services to help support the well-being of families, children and the elderly while increasing the economic vitality and opportunities within our community. To meet the goals, we need to expand our community engagement and community-wide partnerships so that lives are improved. The agency needs to be aware of opportunities to increase our capacity to support moves in new directions when they become necessary. Increasing our capacity to achieve results is a goal that requires our constant 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.
Approved by the ASSIST Agency Board of Directors November 27, 2017