As Center for Community Action’s board of directors heard the results reported from the Community Needs Assessment for the seven-county area the organization serves in December 2018, the group and employees will enter the new year mindful of its findings.
For this assessment, five counties – Bedford, Blair, Huntingdon, Juniata, and Mifflin – were the focus. Crescendo Consulting Group completed the assessment.
The Center for Community Action (CCA) commissioned a Community Needs Assessment (CNA) to help the agency better understand their service areas and provide community services and programs that meet the needs of their communities.
The CCA Community Needs Assessment included a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods designed to evaluate perspectives and opinions of area stakeholders and community members – including those from low-income and underserved populations. The methodology used helps prioritize the needs and establish a basis for continued community engagement and implementation. Surveys were completed by focus groups in each county online and via telephone along with personal interviews throughout the communities.
Feedback ranked the top ten needs in the five-county region, in order of importance, as: 1) Increasing awareness of existing services and community organizations, 2) Expanding affordable housing for low-income families and individuals, 3) Increasing employment training opportunities, 4) Providing greater access to heating assistance, 5) Expanding affordable housing for seniors, 6) Expanding access to mental health services, 7) Increasing access to affordable child care, 8) Proving greater access to utilities assistance, 9) Increasing employment opportunities, and 10) Increasing access to affordable preschool.
Center for Community Action leadership had already hired a communications director in November to spearhead marketing and communications efforts along with the board’s committee. This endeavor will allow the organization to increase awareness of programs and assist in upgraded and updated social media, websites, and marketing materials.
A special projects coordinator has been hired to coordinate some additional housing projects, and the Home 4 Good grant will expand into Mifflin and Juniata Counties. Employment specialists are on board, with additional staff hired recently to assist in employment preparation and services, and the Early Learning Resource Center Region 6 staff at Center for Community Action continues to grow and assist families and individuals with affordable child care.
According to Executive Director Wendy Melius, Center for Community Action’s Board of Directors are compiling the information and incorporating it into the agency’s 5-year strategic plan.
“Most of the items identified in the Community Needs Assessment are already identified in our strategic plan,” said Melius. “We will also reach out to our partners to address the needs, develop and expand programs, and identify gaps in services for low-income families to move toward self-sufficiency.”
Throughout the five-county region, unemployment rates are hovering between the state and national average with Huntingdon and Mifflin counties with the highest unemployment rates. Additionally, over 20% of the jobs in Fulton, Juniata, and Mifflin counties are manufacturing jobs, which experience higher negative impacts during economic downturns, such as hiring freezes and layoffs leading to a higher unemployment rate.
The average household income for all five CCA service area counties is lower than the state average. While the percent population living below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) in all counties (combined) is below the national average of 15.11%, Bedford, Huntingdon and Mifflin counties have a rate higher than the U.S. average. Each county has a higher percent of population living at 185% FPL or below than the Pennsylvania average of 27.64%. Fulton County has the lowest rate at 29.34%, which is slightly below the national average of 30.95%. Mifflin county has the highest rate at 37.8% of the population living at or below 185% FPL. The education attainment for the adult population in the five-county CCA service area is low compared to the state and national averages. Over 65% of Mifflin and Juniata County residents 25 and over have a high school diploma or equivalent or less education attainment, which is higher than the state (46.4%) and national (40.5%) average.
Approximately 25% of residents in each county live alone while 75% live with family members and non-family members. People living alone – especially seniors – are at risk of feeling social isolation. Three-quarters of residents owe their own homes.
Food insecurity is a socioeconomic condition of limited or uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life. Low-income individuals often face food insecurity regularly and require additional services. Food insecurity rates for each county is approximately the same or slightly lower than the state average of 13.8%, but approximately 50% of students receive free or reduced fare lunch at school.
Fulton County has a significantly higher age-adjusted death rate for unintentional injury compared to all the other counties, Pennsylvania, and the United States.
Center for Community Action continues to serve as a catalyst for economic, educational, social, and workforce development. The organization strives to assist families, individuals, and communities in becoming self-sufficient and prosperous.