At Solid Ground, we know we can’t solve poverty without listening to and learning from the voices of those who experience it. People know best what they need and should be involved in decisions that affect their lives – including what kind of support they need and how those services are delivered.
We listen to and honor the input from people we serve and believe in and trust their experience. There are a number of tools we use to listen to people in our communities, including the Community Accountability Council, Listening Sessions, and annual Customer Satisfaction Surveys. In addition, every three years, Solid Ground takes on a more rigorous input process that leads to the development of a Community Needs Assessment (CNA). This research process sets the stage for our next round of strategic planning.
View Our 2022 Community Needs Assessment
As society navigates the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, social inequities increasingly impact people living in poverty in the Puget Sound region. Solid Ground’s 2022 CNA underscores both the mounting challenges for underserved communities and suggests opportunities for improved services and new ways of doing business that have the potential to greatly contribute to solving poverty in our communities.
Some Key CNA Findings
⇒ Low- and even middle-income people struggle to survive in our region.
Housing, childcare, transportation, health care, and other basic survival costs are beyond the reach of too many of us. People need to earn much more money and have access to additional resources to live healthy, stable lives in our region. Economic issues disproportionately impact BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of color) communities.
“For regular people, there are rarely any living wage jobs one can find that will allow you to make enough to afford housing, etc. Washington is basically pushing low moderate and low-income residents out onto the streets or out of the state completely with the out-of-control cost of homes and rentals.” ~Survey respondent
⇒ Our region continues to attract additional residents from other parts of Washington state, the U.S., and other countries, exacerbating existing inequality.
Many are settling in our more affordable communities, especially in South King County, which typically don’t have adequate access to basic infrastructure such as transportation, healthy food, and social and health services. In addition, higher-income earners are displacing low-income residents and driving up the cost of housing and other essentials in these communities. This pushes folks living on low incomes further away from access to jobs, services, resources, and community gathering points – although new virtual and non-place-based services have taken hold in response to pandemic gathering limits.
⇒ While hope lives in every human soul, people increasingly have trouble finding it.
Community members need better access to mental health services, family counseling, and community connections to reinforce hope that everything can and will get better.
Inside the CNA Process
We spoke to Javier Flores, Strategic Information Systems Manager, to learn more about Solid Ground’s 2022 CNA process, some of the results, and what they mean for Solid Ground and our community.
Q: Why does Solid Ground conduct a Community Needs Assessment?
A: First off, it’s a requirement for Community Action Agencies like Solid Ground that we conduct a comprehensive CNA every three years. But beyond that, it’s helpful for informing strategic planning – and determining what the emergent or unaddressed needs are in the community – rather than making assumptions about the need that’s out there.
The CNA helps us learn how needs have changed over time. If we don’t adjust our services to address those changes, we would be doing our community a disservice.
Q: Walk us through the basic methodology.
A: First, we look at what data we have in our own databases from past CNAs and from other reports. Then we pull together a team to talk about that data and ask, “What do we know?” and “What do we want to know?” as well as, “What do we have access to?” We also talk with folks that are serving the community and community members to get an idea of what they want to learn more about.
From there we develop the basic report framework and topics and develop a survey tool. We then survey the community of Solid Ground program participants and others living on very low incomes, researching publicly available data, and combine those into the final report.
Q: Who comprised the team you assembled at Solid Ground for this project?
A: We involved folks from Residential Services (our Sand Point Housing campus), Broadview (Emergency and Transitional Housing), Stabilization Services, Transportation, and Advocacy. And we checked in with the Community Accountability Council (CAC) as well.
The CAC provides input to help Solid Ground understand and incorporate the real-life experiences of people who come to us for services to help shape Solid Ground policies and programs. The CAC reviewed the survey, picked apart some of the questions, reworded some, and developed some of their own – so they were really instrumental in that part of the project.
Q: And how would you say the input of this group of people shaped how things played out?
A: The team wanted to make sure that the voice of the survey taker was centered in the report – so the report has a lot of emphasis on what community members have told us and the data that supports those stories.
Q: How well do the results of the public information you reviewed, such as the U.S. Census and other published information sources, align with what survey respondents told us?
A: I thought it aligned well. The trends from past census data really hammered home what our respondents said. We could look at what they were saying about their daily experiences, and then refer to census and other data to see how it got to this point up from a decade ago to today.
Q: Do you have an example?
A: The cost of housing comes to mind. When we look at any of the data on cost of housing compared to local incomes, or whether people are owning homes or renting, it all ties into what respondents told us. Mainly, that they’re getting priced out of the area – living in King County is not affordable anymore. Respondents talked about how they used to be able to afford to live here versus the current reality, and the data shows this.
When it came to respondents talking about trying to make ends meet, we had people working a couple of different jobs, but still having to live out of their car. We had people talking about not being able to find housing that meets their needs. Through every single data topic of the report, low wages and increased cost of living were central themes.
Q: So what does Solid Ground do with this information?
A: The CNA gives us a reading about what is going on in our community at this moment in time. The “so what?” is up to us. We get to decide how to take the data in the report and act on it. We get to look at the themes in the survey that are within our capacity to address or take on. That feeds directly into our next strategic planning process, which the agency will launch in early 2023.
You also see the CNA impacting our advocacy work, pulling data directly from it to support Solid Ground’s Advocacy Framework. So it’s really a matter of what you decide to do and build on with it. This is the tool to start so many other projects.
Top Community-Identified Needs
- 92% of respondents used some housing resource in the last year.
- The increasing cost of housing drives many to seek housing outside of the area.
Affordable Dental Care
- Respondents say dental care is extremely difficult to access and very important to their household.
- Lack of insurance is also a barrier to dental care.
- Legal issues are a barrier to employment for 9% of respondents.
- Fines and legal fees are a financial hardship for 12% of respondents.
Access to Living-Wage Jobs
- 51% report that getting or keeping a good job was hard for them or someone in their household during the last year.
- The lack of living-wage jobs prevents people from meeting basic needs across all survey categories.
Mental Health / Family Counseling
- 31% of respondents report fair or poor mental health.
- 41% of respondents had childhood experiences with mental illness and/or addiction.