Community assessment is foundational to program planning, providing data and information that helps programs to meet children and families’ needs. There are a wide range of resources that programs may tap into to build a comprehensive community assessment or draw from for an annual update.

Here, we share three tools that allow users to explore data at the national, state, and local levels. While the content in each tool is different – focusing on housing, food insecurity, and substance misuse – the functionality is very similar. Start broad and drill down to local data that show how needs vary from one community to the next.

Housing: National Low Income Housing Coalition, Out of Reach 2021

Out of Reach documents the significant gap between renters’ wages and the cost of rental housing across the United States. The report’s central statistic, the Housing Wage, is an estimate of the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest rental home at HUD’s fair market rent (FMR) without spending more than 30% of his or her income on housing costs, the accepted standard of affordability.

For example, this tool tells us that $19.95 is the hourly wage necessary to afford a 2-bedroom rental home in Pennsylvania, where minimum wage is $7.25. This means someone would need to work 110 hours per week at minimum wage to afford a 2-bedroom rental home! Zip code level data tell even more of the story, allowing users to see where housing is more or less affordable in a geographic region.

Food Insecurity: State-by-State Resource: The Impact of Coronavirus on Food Insecurity

According to Feeding America, before the COVID pandemic began, food insecurity was at a 20-year low. The pandemic has resulted in more people becoming food insecure, in addition to those that were already experiencing food insecurity pre-COVID. This tool allows users to view 2019 food insecurity rates by state and county as well as 2020 projected food insecurity rates. You can see side-by-side how the rates compare and, in many cases, have increased due to the pandemic.

Substance Misuse: Opioid Misuse Tool

In recent years, the opioid epidemic has been impacting communities across the country. This tool from NORC at the University of Chicago is a wealth of information. You can explore drug overdose death rates at the state and county level and can even compare the rates for all drugs to just opioids. You can also look at how data has changed over time, filter by urban and rural areas, and see where there are substance use and mental health facilities.

Give yourself plenty of time to dig around this tool, as there is data that extends beyond substance misuse. You can uncover helpful data related to demographics and social and economic factors (i.e., poverty, income, broadband access).

We hope you find these tools helpful! A high-quality, detailed community assessment is one of the keys to successful program planning. Exploring new and different sources of information can help to enrich your community assessment. This is more important than ever as programs continue to navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Foundations for Families offers community assessment services to meet programs’ needs. Whether conducting a comprehensive community assessment, annual update, or preparing data for a competitive grant opportunity, we are here to help. Please reach out to learn more.

Thank you.

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