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COVID-19 Community Needs Chronicle and Assessment Calls for Systematic Change

Written by Todd Goehle

On 4 June 2020, 26.5% of those hospitalized from COVID-19 in Onondaga County were Black. And yet, only 11.4% of the county’s total population is Black. As outlined within PEACE, Inc.’s COVID-19 Community Needs Chronicle and Assessment, the inequalities of our past continue to haunt our pandemic present. For the full assessment, visit the agency’s website. In the article below, Todd Goehle walks us through some of the major findings.

Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of Central New York residents. But what does this mean? Who is struggling? And in what ways? How can different forms of data be used to mobilize resources? To adjust antipoverty services effectively? To help those who are most vulnerable? In May, PEACE, Inc.’s Community Engagement Team began to research these questions. Our efforts became the COVID-19 Community Needs Chronicle and Assessment.

The team analyzed data from national, state, and local foundations, governments, and sources. We met with community leaders, staff members, and agency clients. Client case notes were collected as well. The team also used the Central New York Community Foundation’s Life Needs Assessment Survey, receiving 230 responses over the course of 11 days in May. Through our research, the assessment comprehensively explores the pandemic’s effects on Physical and Mental Health; Youth, Family, and Senior Supports; Food and Nutrition; Employment; Education; Childcare; Housing; Access to Capital; Technology; Access to Information through informal networks and media; gender; and race and ethnicity.

Findings

Two findings are noteworthy. First, the majority of the problems seen during the pandemic are not new per se. Rather, COVID-19 has intensified long-standing structural insecurities and inequalities.

So what do these complicated ideas mean? It starts with this map of Syracuse:[1]

 

The map was produced in 1937 by the Homeowners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), a federal agency that assigned neighborhoods 4 investment “ratings” and thus guided mortgage lending. The “riskiest,” rated “Hazardous” and colored “Red,” were based upon building conditions and racial demographics. Here, residents of color were unable to access federal loans. In “Definitely Declining” or “Yellow” neighborhoods, only 15% of residents could receive backing. Banned in 1968, “redlining” created obstacles for Black homeownership, a means for growing personal wealth historically. Redlining furthered financial disinvestment. And it deepened chronic poverty in communities of color.

Redlining, poverty, and issues of race, employment, and health have been well-documented in Syracuse.[2] More recent research by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) found that 3 of the 4 ZIP codes with the highest COVID-19 case rates had large portions of yellow or redlined neighborhoods.[3] Past and present disparities are linked. County health statistics also confirm how people of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in Onondaga County.

Onondaga County COVID-19 Cases by Race and Race as Percent of Population (4 June 2020)[4]

 

Race Percent Hospitalized by Race Race as Percent of Population
Black or African American 26.5% 11.4%
White 59.8% 79.9%
Other 9.2% 8.7%
Unknown 4.5% 0.0%

 

During the pandemic, cities across the country have declared racism as public health crisis.[5] With the legacies of redlining clear, the research of NYCLU and now PEACE, Inc. supports this claim for Syracuse.

A second key finding from the assessment: those most vulnerable in the COVID-19 pandemic lack multiple basic needs. Social Determinants of Health interact and reinforce one another to impact a person’s ability to remain healthy. Let’s address food and poverty.

Throughout the pandemic, the community has worked hard to provide nutrition for those in poverty. At PEACE, Inc., only 9.7% of nearly 230 Life Needs Assessment Survey respondents answered that they lacked food.[6] Still, as NYCLU noted, significant portions of those Syracuse ZIP Codes most impacted by COVID-19 are both “redlined” and classified as food deserts.[7] Poverty is layered. For example, nearly 40% of survey respondents “spend time alone more often than they would like.”[8] More than a third lack the technology to “meet needs for work, school, or other responsibilities.”[9] How might matters of socialization connect with hunger? The closing of Senior lunches and congregate meal sites has left low-income seniors both food insecure AND isolated.[10] Senior “Meals-to-Go” services have provided nutrition and smiles for those forced to remain at home. Yet the data reveals the smiles might only be temporary. The African proverb rings true, “One who eats alone cannot discuss the taste of the food with others.”

Other examples from the assessment are telling. An elderly woman raising 2 of her grandchildren can pay for groceries but lacks a car and has health conditions that make her nervous to ride the bus. A single mother struggles to cook -let alone to shop- due to a lack of home supports for her disabled child. A recently unemployed man who went to a food pantry for the first time now feels shame that he could not provide for his family. Food must be placed within wider contexts of poverty

For Action Steps, 3 policy suggestions can be recommended:

1) Services must be multifaceted, meet immediate need, and foster systematic change. The research reveals how trauma-informed services, local interventions where poverty is highest, and affordable Internet for impoverished families are just 3 examples that address long-standing inequalities and meet multiple needs.

2) Nonprofits must have difficult, inclusive conversations. By connecting the COVID-19 pandemic with longstanding inequalities, the assessment questions the effectiveness of our community’s antipoverty initiatives. It provides starting topics to advance conversation and change. And it supports the need for a) the rising community advocacy of recent months, b) more inclusive public forums, and c) equitable reform.

3) Building a Culture wherein Data is accessible to all. Like CNYVitals, the assessment provides public research and data. More transparency is needed, however. We hope critical assessments will spur partnerships and help local agencies value sharing data publicly. Defining the terms that we use to measure poverty can also challenge our underlining assumptions about it. Most think “Redlining” is bad. But can we explain it? Or connect it with the lived experiences of its victims? Trainings for staff, “lunch and learns” with the community, as well as monthly 1 to 2-page overviews are just some ways in which data can become more inclusive and equitable.

About PEACE, Inc.

Incorporated in 1968, People’s Equal Action and Community Effort, Inc. (PEACE, Inc.) is the federal designated Community Action Agency (CAA) for Syracuse, Onondaga County, and portions of Oswego County. The agency’s mission, “to help people in the community realize their potential for becoming self-sufficient,” defines its 9 antipoverty initiatives: Head Start, Family Services, Department of Energy and Housing, Senior Nutrition, Foster Grandparents, Senior Support Services, Eastwood Community Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Free Tax Preparation.


[1] Map retrieved from Central New York Community Foundation. (18 May 2018). “How the History of Redlining and I-81 Contributed to Syracuse Poverty.” CNY Vitals. Retrieved from  https://cnyvitals.org/how-the-history-of-redlining-and-i-81-contributed-to-syracuse-poverty/.

[2] See Ibid.; Onondaga County Health Department. (June 29, 2017). “Mapping the Food Environment in Syracuse, New York 2017.” Retrieved from http://www.ongov.net/health/documents/FoodEnvironment.pdf; and Urban Jobs Task Force (UJTF) and Legal Services of CNY. (2019) “Building Equity in the Trades: A Racial Equity Impact Statement.” Retrieved from https://www.ujtf.org/reis.

[3] NYCLU. (May 18, 2020). “Testimony of the New York Civil Liberties Union before the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly regarding the Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Minority Communities.” Retrieved from https://www.nyclu.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/20200518-testimony-coronavirusracialdisparities.pdf.

[4] PEACE, Inc. (2020). COVID-19 Community Needs Chronicle and Assessment. Retrieved from https://www.peace-caa.org/about-us/covid-19-community-chronicle-and-needs-assessment/.

[5] Vestal, Christine. (15 June 2020). “Racism is a Public Health Crisis, says Cities and Counties.” PEW Charitable Trusts. Retrieved from https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2020/06/15/racism-is-a-public-health-crisis-say-cities-and-counties.

[6] PEACE, Inc.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid.

[10] Eisenstadt, M. (May 1, 2020). “Crews bring lasagna and connection to the locked-in elderly starved for a friendly face (video).” Syracuse.com. Retrieved from https://www.syracuse.com/coronavirus/2020/05/crews-bring-lasagna-and-connection-to-the-locked-in-elderly-starved-for-a-friendly-face-video.html

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COVID-19 Expected to Cause $15 Million in Lost Arts Revenue

When New York went on pause in mid-March to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), arts, culture and heritage venues were among the groups to close their doors. Now, they will be one of the last groups eligible to reopen.

CNY Arts, a regional council that promotes, supports and celebrates arts and culture in Central New York, convened remotely with arts agencies across its seven-county service area from Central New York to the Mohawk Valley. The groups asked that we conduct a survey to understand and quantify the impact of the pandemic on local arts and entertainment organizations and artists. The Central New York Community Foundation, which expressed interest in understanding this impact as well, responded with a grant for us to engage Research Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct a field survey.

The Results

With more than 265 artists and nonprofit arts organizations responses, the resulting data is humbling but not surprising. Collectively, more than 75% of the artists and cultural organizations surveyed stated the pandemic was having a severe to extremely severe impact on their livelihood or agency.

By the end of September, the loss of individual artist income is projected to be $2 million and agency income $13 million, for a total combined loss of $15 million. This data is being further explored to determine a nuanced industry-wide response to these figures.

On average, by late April to mid-May, agencies had only enough cash reserves to operate for another 23 weeks (this includes those who filed for CARES Act assistance such as the Paycheck Protection Program, aka PPP). The survey revealed that without a significant infusion of relief funding, starting as early as this summer through early November, many agencies may need to entirely suspend operations or permanently close their doors. The study also revealed that, on average, four full-time equivalents had already been let go from each cultural organization at the time of the survey.

Individual artists are expected to lose $17,000 of income by September 30 and since most artists responding earned between $5,000 and $24,999 this will be a loss of 98% (this accounts for 60% of the respondents) of their annual artistic income before the last three months of the year. Many individual artists expect that the recent losses could equate to almost ALL their prior year’s reported income. It’s important to note that many of these artists also work in other industries that are also imperiled by closures and a diminished economy.

The average agency loss by September 30 of this year is expected to be $122,000, a somewhat deceptive figure because of the range of agency budget sizes. Some agencies projected that their institutions would experience losses upwards of a half-million dollars or more by the end of the summer.

The Needs

The primary requests from artists and cultural agencies are emergency relief grants. While the Paycheck Protection Program loans and the extension of the loaning period has been helpful in retaining staff through this time, the field is preparing for further reductions in earned income, government grants, corporate giving and individual contributions. This scenario has put the future of these agencies at severe risk. We believe it is crucial that a fund be created to distribute relief and sustainability grants to agencies and individual artists.

The second most sought after help is no-interest loans. Currently, many government agencies have slowed or stopped payments for reimbursement and are not moving forward with new contracts. No interest loans would somewhat remedy this issue which is especially significant for the larger institutions. Providing even a percentage of funding assistance through no-interest loans could keep agencies in continuous operation and staffers employed.

Why Help the Arts Sector

Research conducted by the Americans for the Arts, the national arts agency, demonstrates that the arts have tremendous value in sustaining communities. Americans believe “the arts unify our communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity (72%); they understand that we turn to the arts in times of trouble (81%); and that the arts help us understand other cultures better (73%). Arts promote healthy communities 73% of the population feels the arts give them “pure pleasure to experience and participate in.”

Arts build social cohesion. University of Pennsylvania research demonstrates that residents’ robust participation in arts and cultural activities leads to higher civic engagement in cities, more social cohesion, increased child wellness, and lower poverty rates. This is no less true in Central New York and surrounding counties; our own research has verified many of these national indicators.

Equally important, but perhaps the most overlooked, is the arts’ stellar performance as an economic driver. The arts sector creates jobs, supports local business activity, increases tourism, and pulls in peripheral dollars through audience spending, in addition to their ticket purchase or admission fee. The arts generate needed tax revenue for local governments and the state. In fact, all of New York State’s arts and cultural industries generate $114.1 billion to the state economy, employ 462,584 people, and provide $46.7 billion in compensation, according to new data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Next Steps & How You Can Help

In response to the current and critical need in the arts industry, we established the CNY Arts COVID-19 Impact Fund to provide emergency assistance for artists and cultural groups across seven counties in Central New York. Donate online now.

In addition, we are offering and curating statewide, regional and local COVID-19 related resources to local arts organizations such as webinars on how to produce virtual and online events, guidance on CARES, HEROES, and agency mergers, and continuing to offer technical assistance and arts promotional services to the public.

We are also currently offering mini COVID-19 Arts Relief Grants in the amount of $500 to small organizations and artists to help mitigate the financial losses they’re experiencing. We established a small GoFundMe campaign to allow individuals to support this cause. We also established an additional GoFundMe campaign for an arts education fund, which  connects students to teaching artists and provides both much-needed art lessons for gifted students and income for artists.

We will continue our work to advocate for the arts, culture and heritage sector by sharing our survey data with all levels of government, funders and other stakeholders across our region. We encourage those moved by the arts to consider taking action to support our sector, either through our current GoFundMe links or directly to your favorite arts provider.

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life”, said Pablo Picasso, who lived through the 1918 Pandemic. This is no less true today than it was a century ago and art in our lives is more needed than ever as we come together to grapple with this century’s pandemic.

Our thanks to the Central New York Community Foundation and The Gifford Foundation for their generous support to make this study possible.

CNY Arts provides support and assistance to individual artists and arts and cultural organizations through access to grants, capacity-building assistance, education and training, and promotional services. It serves the counties of Cortland, Herkimer, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga and Oswego. The organization’s primary goal is to enhance a greater appreciation for the arts and cultural vibrancy of the region. Learn more at http://cnyarts.org.

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Parenting Challenges Among New Americans

A new study conducted by local service providers and academic researchers examined the unique parenting challenges that Syracuse-based Somali, Bhutanese and Congolese refugees face while assimilating to a new culture. A summary of their findings and recommendations can be read below. To read the full whitepaper, click here

Recently, focus group discussions were held with Syracuse-based Somali, Bhutanese, and Congolese community members to learn from their unique experiences. Researchers sought to better understand the challenges of newly resettled refugee parents in hopes of developing intervention programs that will support their transition as New Americans. Of particular interest were the ways in which these refugee families experience parenting as they encounter and try to adapt to a new culture.

Each of the groups spoken with expressed similar parenting challenges. Language barriers, lack of community resources, and few vocational opportunities were identified as having a detrimental effect on their ability to provide for their families. Language barriers play a role in New Americans entering the job market in low paying positions such as housekeeping and janitorial services, and they struggle to make ends meet. They look to refugee community centers for support in the form of education and training to improve their social standing, but many of these centers have lost financial support.

Parents also expressed frustration with their lack of knowledge when trying to navigate the healthcare and public-school system, leaving some of them with feelings of powerlessness and mistrust. Others described how their children, who pick up language and cultural cues more quickly, sometimes intentionally manipulate information when they are asked to interpret information or concerns from the school system. As a result of inaccurate information and a lack of cultural knowledge, some refugee parents expressed great fear that their children would be taken away from them by child protective services (CPS).

Ammar with his daughter Ritaj at Sunnycrest Park.

 

While the challenges to refugees are many, the focus groups also identified ways to enhance local resources that might improve parenting among New Americans. All three groups expressed a need for culturally compatible parenting classes aimed at maintaining communication with children, negotiating expectations, communicating with medical and school systems, adapting parenting skills, and exploring alternative ways to discipline children.

Additionally, the groups stressed the need to focus on English language and literacy education for adults to achieve better paying jobs and economic self-sufficiency. Acknowledging cuts in funding to refugee service agencies, it was suggested that volunteer tutors and role models be recruited from settled families who would be willing to help teach English and share experiences.

All of the groups expressed a strong desire to maintain and share their language and unique cultural values with their children and saw opportunities to achieve these goals through developing and partnering with positive support networks in their refugee communities, incorporating afterschool culture and religious classes for their children, and providing regular opportunities for community members to engage with their children by coming together to celebrate their culture. They also saw a need to provide community education to institutions such as public schools and healthcare settings to enhance cultural competence and respect among service providers.

To read the full whitepaper, click here

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Brady Faith Center: Identifying a Pathway Out of Poverty

In 2017, the poverty rate on the Southwest side of Syracuse, which includes Census Tracts 42 and 53, averaged a startling 62.42 percent. The Brady Faith Center (Brady Faith), which is located within this region, has committed to serving neighborhood residents by identifying ways to collaborate and create plans to lead them out of poverty.

Walking the streets of the Southwest side of Syracuse every day is an ordinary practice for Kevin Frank, executive director of Brady Faith. He stands for the values of building kinship among himself, Brady Faith and the community. The organization emphasizes that to build trust with the community, you must be within it.

“It’s not doing for, it is being with,” said Frank. “We look at relationship building as our core outreach and meeting people where they are at.”

Kevin Frank, Executive Director, of The Brady Faith Center

From listening to residents, Brady Faith identified a need to create equitable change for women, men, and their families. To help, organization representatives set out to learn from Homeboy Industries, a Los-Angeles based organization that provides training and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated individuals, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of their community, often through entrepreneurship.

Every year the organization hosts the Annual Global Homeboy Network Conference to educate other charitable groups about what has worked most effectively.

“It is just an amazing conference that communicates best practices from around the world for working with marginalized groups through entrepreneurship, healing, and support,” said Frank. “That really makes an impact in the lives of families, communities, and neighborhoods.”

The Central New York Community Foundation awarded a grant for nine Brady Faith team members to attend the conference. Frank says the funding not only supported the trip, but showed its dedication to improving the Southwest neighborhood for the better.

“We are really thankful for the Community Foundation for believing in us and supporting us on this journey,” he said. “The conference provided us with the building blocks to build a similar program locally and further our impact in the Syracuse community.”

Brady Faith intends to take what it learned and introduce entrepreneurial opportunities to community members with a criminal history or of limited resources. Frank explained that many of those individuals that face this prejudice are being denied employment, housing, and even education.

Emmanuel Flowers, Youth and Teen Co-Coordinator for The Brady Faith Center

 

In 2014, 20,675 males and 25,385 females were living in poverty in Syracuse, while the numbers dropped to 19,642 males and 20,032 females in 2017. This data shows that there has been a decrease in people living in poverty over the past three years – from 35 percent to 32.6 percent. Frank hopes that Brady Faith’s work will help progressively lower those numbers even further.

“People who are in this category are often people of tremendous faith, courage, and tenacity,” said Frank. “Some of them are the most spiritual and empathetic people I’ve ever met and have so much talent and many gifts to offer.”

By investing in these individuals, Frank believes that together they can create a pathway out of poverty where people can thrive, grow, and transform. The Homeboy models have proven to be successful and Frank strongly believes that they will do the same for the Syracuse community.

Brady Faith works to support the needs of Syracuse’s Southwest neighborhood by providing human development, educational and religious programs to residents. The center relies on a small staff and various community volunteers to fuel its mission of outreach. To learn more about Brady Faith Center, please visit bradyfaithcenter.org. To learn more about Homeboy Industries, visit homeboyindustries.org.

 

 

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Paper Released: The Critical Next Step to Address Lead Poisoning in Syracuse

The topic of lead poisoning has recently burst back into the scene in Central New York due to high-profile publicity and community action; however, it has been an ongoing issue in this region, and across New York State, for decades. Recently, we have seen a steady march forward toward progress, both in terms of increased resources devoted to the issue and new collaboration among local policy makers, residents and organizations. Syracuse has taken bold steps, but more are needed.

The following policy paper outlines the Central New York Community Foundation’s review of what has been accomplished so far and what still needs to be done to close a critical gap in legislation. Based on our analysis, we conclude that the most important next step is to advocate for the passage of a new lead ordinance, soon to be put forth by the City of Syracuse, which would make the presence of lead a housing code violation.

View the paper:

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New Committee Working to Ensure we are ALL Counted

Written by Tory Russo

Tory Russo, The City of Syracuse’s Census Coordinator for the United States Census Bureau 2020 Census count, shares the importance of every resident being counted.

In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau will conduct the nation’s next census. It happens every 10 years and aims to count every person living in the United States. A complete and accurate count of communities is critical. In addition to providing basic population characteristics of U.S. residents, census data is used to reapportion congressional seats allocated to each state in the House of Representatives, redraw legislative boundaries, and distribute more than $675 billion federal dollars to states each year.

After the 2010 Census, New York State has lost two representatives and more than $1.5 billion of federal funds to our state each year since then. Even a 0.6 percent undercount in 2020 will result in the loss of two additional representatives and could affect federal funding that supports hundreds of vital community programs and services like Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP, WIC, Head Start, school lunches, highway planning and construction, and business and industry loans.

One of those programs is the Community Block Grant Development program. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determines the amount of each grant with a formula that considers population and a number of other factors. In the most recent fully-funded year, May 2018 to April 2019, the City of Syracuse received almost five million dollars. This was reallocated to fund programs at organizations including ARISE, Catholic Charities, Dunbar Center, Home HeadQuarters, InterFaith Works, Jubilee Homes, NEHDA, and the YWCA.

The impact of the census on communities is significant – and so is the challenge of counting everyone.

More than 30 of the 55 census tracts in the City of Syracuse had self-response rates below 73 percent in the 2010 Census. This means more than one-quarter of households in these tracts did not complete their census and required follow-up by Census Bureau enumerators, which increased the risk that people were missed. These response rates caused these tracts to be ranked among the “hardest-to-count” tracts in the country.

In an effort to help communities identify hard-to-count (HTC) areas and support the development of communications and outreach about the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau launched its Response Outreach Area Mapper (ROAM) tool. This map uses data to predict the percentage of households that will not respond to the 2020 Census. Again, more than half of the tracts in Syracuse are expected to have below a 73 percent self-response rate in 2020.

So, what’s being done?

Communities across the country, including Syracuse and Onondaga County, have assembled Complete Count Committees (CCC) to inform residents about why the census is important, how they can make sure they’re counted, and what temporary job opportunities are available through the Census Bureau.

These multi-sector coalitions have been developing outreach plans, focused on reaching people who have been traditionally and historically undercounted, including: immigrants and mixed-status households, migrant workers; refugees; young children, people of color; people in rural areas and people lacking internet access.

The Syracuse-Onondaga County Complete Count Committee (SOC-CCC) consists of more than 20 subcommittees categorized as engagement, government, community, education, or business. These subcommittees have been meeting regularly since August 2019 to form and implement action plans for census outreach in local HTC neighborhoods and communities.

The City is supporting the SOC-CCC by providing trainings and updates, developing communications campaigns and materials, and coordinating activities with community stakeholders. The County is focusing on outreach and education in Onondaga County’s hardest-to-count rural communities, by coordinating with libraries across the county and supporting the formation of Complete Count Committees in towns and villages.

In addition, the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County have been applying for grants to fund a Census Ambassador Program and an outdoor advertising campaign, respectively, and coordinating with state and federal government representatives to better align local efforts.

But all of these efforts require participation and support from organizations and individuals who can work to ensure that residents of every city, town, and village in Central New York know our communities count.

So, what can you do?

  1. Learn more by following the Census Bureau @uscensusbureau and skimming these suggested resources:
  1. Inform and encourage your network by participating in our #Take20 for #Census2020 campaign:
  • Take 20 seconds to record a video explaining why you plan to complete the census and share it on your social media accounts.
  • Take 20 minutes to talk with your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues about the importance of the census.
  • Take 20 minutes to complete your census in 2020 and encourage your employer to designate a day and time in April 2020 for staff to complete it.
  • Participate in local “Calls to Action” on the 20th of each month. Contact 2020Census@syrgov.net to be added to the listserv.
  1. Apply or help others apply for a temporary, part-time job with the Census Bureau
  • Local census takers will be paid $17 per hour
  • Income won’t affect eligibility or benefit amounts for most assistance programs
  • Certain noncitizens are eligible to be hired
  1. Volunteer with a Complete Count Committee
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Community Needs Assessment Enhanced with ‘Data Dating’; Nearly $120,000 in New Grants Will Help Nonprofits Measure

Enhancements to a community assessment tool, designed by the Central New York Community Foundation, are making it easier for area nonprofits to analyze their programming in real-time, ‘match’ with partner organizations, and evaluate the greatest concerns of those they serve.

Community assessment is a major focus of the Community Foundation’s Performance Management Learning Community (PMLC), now entering its eighth year. PMLC uses grant dollars and peer learning to help nonprofits measure their effectiveness.

PEACE, Inc., a federally-designated Community Action Agency that works to help people become more self-sufficient, joined PMLC last year to continue becoming data-structured from within. The organization’s goal was to help staff effectively track and measure the effectiveness of its food pantries, family resource centers, and programming for youth and seniors.

“The first objective within our organization’s strategic plan is to develop a data-driven culture,” said Todd Goehle, development coordinator at PEACE, Inc. “So we identified emerging leaders across our organization who could take what they’ve learned from PMLC and make it a part of our daily philosophy.”

After a year in PMLC, PEACE, Inc. consolidated database systems, which now allows staff members to collaborate across teams and with external organizations. In addition, the agency benefited greatly from the findings of PMLC’s community needs assessment, a measurement of which life needs—such as affordable long-term housing, addiction counseling, lead poisoning support, job readiness and economic independence—are not being adequately met for those living in poverty. PMLC participants can study responses to the needs assessment by neighborhood or census tract to complete pre-and post-program evaluation.

“When we evaluated the data that we and our PMLC partners gathered, it became clear to us that we needed to double down on our food pantries,” said Goehle. “We found that there is a real need for food and personal items within some neighborhoods of the city, and we need to increase our efforts to get funding that will allow us to increase our supplies.”

This fall, the Community Foundation released a whitepaper that examined the impact that can be made if social programs addressed the nuances within the areas where they work, as PEACE is doing.

Recently, the Community Foundation introduced new online enhancements to the assessment tool, which include access to interactive, real-time results. This allows nonprofits to take their analyses one step further. Nicknamed ‘data dating,’ organizations can quickly identify other participating organizations they ‘match’ with for collaboration, such as to fulfill a client need that they do not offer. The tool also makes information about program measurement accessible by all members within an organization, from front-line staff to executive directors, without the need for extensive training.

Goehle reports that he hopes to use the new interactive features to partner with organizations that have clients reporting needs that PEACE, Inc. can help provide.

“The data that we’re accumulating doesn’t necessarily reflect the community at large,” he said. “This tool gives us opportunities, especially with live mapping, to identify locations where interventions can be made.”

This year, seven organizations received a total of $118,756 in grants to join the next PMLC class: ACR Health ($20,000); Everson Museum ($15,000); Hiscock Legal Aid Society ($20,000); Mercy Works ($20,000); Madison County Health Department ($15,200); Northside Learning Center ($14,956); and Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York ($13,600).

The Community Foundation awards PMLC grants toward data measuring efforts, which include such things as database management and statistical analysis, to help nonprofits track their efforts and look for trends. This in turn assists the organizations in identifying what is working and what’s not, leading to the development of more effective programming and funding competitiveness. Applicants agreed to participate in a year-long learning community in order to qualify for a grant.

Another six organizations are joining PMLC Prep and PMLC Pro groups to learn how to collect community assessment responses and use the new interactive tool in new and innovative ways with $5,000 grants each: Huntington Family Center; On Point for College; PEACE, Inc.; Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment; Southwest Community Center; Westcott Community Center; and Women’s Opportunity Center.

For organizations like PEACE, Inc., the PMLC collaboration is helping form new connections that will benefit the community as a whole.

“Sometimes in Syracuse, organizations tend to work in silos and there are not always a lot of opportunities to meet and exchange ideas,” Goehle said. “This provides us with an opportunity to all get to the table and examine through data how we can work through problems collectively.”

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Paper Just Released: Local Poverty Problems Need Holistic, Data-Driven Neighborhood Solutions

Studies based on federal census data have helped shine a light in recent years on Syracuse’s high poverty rates, however these explorations only tell part of the story. Concentrated poverty is associated with neighborhood crime, wage disparity, lack of reliable transportation, academic resources, fewer recreation venues and more. This leads to a vicious cycle in which each challenge reinforces and magnifies others.

One may think that the characteristics of poverty within Syracuse span all regions of the city. In reality, when you look deeper you can see that the challenges and opportunities experienced by residents vary based on neighborhood. It can be difficult for social programs to succeed in their efforts to decrease poverty if they are not addressing the nuances within the areas where they work.

A recent paper released by the Central New York Community Foundation examines how the use of precise measurements within a poverty index, which compares each tract along multiple dimensions that reinforce one another, can drive meaningful change through holistic yet customized neighborhood solutions.

View the Paper:

 

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Author of “The Color of Law” Visits Syracuse for Community Conversation

FREE Community Conversation with Author of “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America”

The legacy of intentional, government mandated housing segregation has led to Syracuse having some of the highest rates of extreme concentrated poverty for African Americans and Hispanics in the nation. Let’s learn from our history and imagine how we can create opportunity and equity moving forward. Richard Rothstein,* an expert on this topic, will visit Syracuse on Tuesday September 17 as part of an initiative led by Legal Services of Central New York and CNY Fair Housing to discuss housing segregation in our community.

The event is free and open to the public and will feature Mr. Rothstein discussing his New York Times Bestselling book, “The Color of Law” which highlights the intentional and systematic web of laws and policy that codified housing segregation in America, including in Syracuse.  In addition to being discriminatory, this severely curtailed financial, career, and educational opportunities for African Americans and created an extreme wealth disparity between whites and African Americans that continues to widen today.

Mr. Rothstein will be joined by panelists Vincent Love (Blueprint 15), Lanessa Chaplin (NYCLU), and Sally Santangelo (CNY Fair Housing). The conversation will also include a welcome by Mayor Ben Walsh and opportunities for audience Q & A.

In preparation for this exciting free community event, this summer the Syracuse Citywide Book Club brought people throughout our region together to read and discuss Mr. Rothstein’s book: “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America”.  More than 100 people are currently registered for the Syracuse Citywide Book Club, with hundreds more following on Facebook and reading the book on their own.  Individuals can sign-up at www.lscny.org/thecoloroflaw to receive exclusive content and updates.  Everyone is invited to read along with Mayor Ben Walsh and other community leaders at www.facebook.com/syrbookclub.

The 2019 Syracuse Summer Book Club and the free Community Conversation with Richard Rothstein are sponsored by Legal Services of Central New York, CNY Fair Housing, NBT Bank, and Syracuse University College of Law.  To register for updates and exclusive content visit www.lscny.org/thecoloroflaw or for more information contact wrhodes@lscny.org.

*Richard Rothstein is a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute, Emeritus Senior Fellow of the Thurgood Marshall Institute at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Senior Fellow at the Haas Institute at the University of California, Berkley, and author of New York Times Bestseller “The Color of Law.”

 

 

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Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Refugees

Between 2007 and 2016, Onondaga County became home to more than 9,500 refugees, consisting mostly of Burmese, Bhutanese and Somalian settlers[1]. That figure includes approximately 1,000 Iraqi and Afghan refugees who were affiliated with the United States military, as well as 250 refugees from the Syrian conflict[2]. A large portion of these refugees turned to local nonprofits for support to establish economic and social-self-sufficiency, long after the initial resettlement period.

English-as-a-New-Language (ENL) lessons and housing assistance are primary support services refugees have access to. While these services are critical, (70 different languages are spoken in the Syracuse City District[3]) and housing remains a difficult process, mental health services are far less common. The lack of adequate, culturally responsive mental health services is problematic as many arrive from countries where large scale violence, sexual assault and persecution are prevalent.

The consequences of these complex traumatic situations linger in the form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, substance abuse depression, and challenges in family relationships. Refugees are approximately ten times more likely than non-refugees to have PTSD[4] and three times more likely to develop depression and anxiety[5], while access to mental health treatment is limited due to a number of factors including language barriers, stigma and lack of appropriate training of psychotherapists.

To address this, Dr. Rashmi Gangamma, associate professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Syracuse University (MFT), approached the Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters (MAMI) to identify ways in which some of these barriers could be reduced.

Through a series of meetings with MAMI and members of the New American community, an idea emerged for a collaborative approach targeting two needs: training psychotherapy students to deliver culturally informed psychotherapy for refugee populations and training language interpreters to effectively interpret psychotherapy sessions with individuals, couples and families.

“Throughout our work we’ve noticed each family member has experienced different traumas and circumstances and they don’t always adapt at the same speed,” said Gangamma. “It’s important for us to spend time with each family member including parents, children and even extended family to target their specific issues.”

The Central New York Community Foundation provided MFT with a $19,760 grant to launch a free training workshop that brings together interpreters in training from MAMI and her psychotherapy students at SU to learn and work collaboratively. The workshop, launched in January 2019, will utilize the grant to continue operations over a full one-year cycle.

The project will be completed in three phases. Phase one includes planning for the workshop with MAMI and community members; phase two is the actual workshop offered to both interpreters from MAMI and psychotherapy students at SU; and phase three involves a follow-up to assess the impact of the workshop.

“I believe training in conjunction with the community’s interpreters will be crucial for both interpreters and for mental health clinicians in our community,” said Shaelise Tor, a doctoral candidate at Syracuse University who has closely worked with Dr. Gangamma. “It’s been a great experience to work with a multidisciplinary team to craft this training, because we each bring our own areas of knowledge.”

The Marriage and Family Therapy Department at Syracuse University is the only provider of free family therapy services to the community in Syracuse and has been serving Onondaga County since 1969. The department maintains relationships with refugee centers in Syracuse including the Bhutanese Community Center and RISE to provide and assess the family therapy needs of those communities.

In collaboration with MAMI, who has served Central New York since 1998, MFT hopes to build a stronger relationship between its department, interpreters, and refugee populations to ensure long-term access to mental health solutions in Syracuse.

[1] CNY Vitals (https://cnyvitals.org/people/)

[2] CNY Vitals (https://cnyvitals.org/people/)

[3] Semuels, 2015, “The Refugees Who Come Alone”, (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/11/the-refugees-who-come-alone/415491/)

[4] Giacco & Priebe, “Mental Health Care for Refugees”, World Health Organization (http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/293271/Policy-Brief-Migration-Health-Mental-Health-Care-Refugees.pdf)

[5] Hameed, Sadiq, & Din, 2018, “The Increased Vulnerability of Refugee Population to Mental Health Disorders” Kansas Journal of Medicine (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5834240/)

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