Poverty remains persistent and factors such as access to transportation, consumer debt, and affordable housing are contributing factors for most communities in the Buffalo Niagara region, according to research unveiled this month in a new interactive website created by The Mobile Safety-Net Team, in partnership with the University at Buffalo’s Regional Institute (UBRI).
The new website provides a depth of statistical data, resident input, and perspective from social service providers to highlight specific, critical needs in 12 Western New York communities. The online resource, called Numbers in Need, was developed to support community leaders, human service providers, government officials, the philanthropic community, and others in understanding the most pressing needs relating to poverty and economic vulnerability in the Buffalo Niagara Region. The website can be found at www.NumbersInNeed.org.
Numbers in Need offers community-level data that identify people and places in need and factors that matter such as access to jobs, educational attainment, household income, affordable housing, and safe neighborhoods. Also included is a regional picture from which to benchmark each community and the ability to track trends in poverty levels. The research focuses on representative urban, suburban and rural communities, including the City of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, that are home to over half of those in the region who live in or near poverty.
The website includes data, information and research findings for each of the 12 communities and offers insights, lessons, and models for all communities in the region and beyond. Also included is an interactive mapping tool to identify service providers in relation to at-risk populations in each community. The website is an update of a series of printed reports created in 2012, primarily in response to the impact of the recession of 2008 and how regional communities were impacted.
In addition to data, the website includes insights from residents and community service providers who share the perspectives of vulnerable populations living in the community and the service providers who work there. Offering more than just problem identification, the website also offers a section on strategies and models that offers ideas, actions and examples for spurring thought, conversation, and activity toward a stronger safety net of human services.
According to Lawrence H. Cook, Vice President and Program Officer of The John R. Oishei Foundation, “During the 2008 economic downturn, it became clear that communities that we had not considered to be “in need” were facing some significant economic challenges. In response, the Foundation created The Mobile Safety-Net Team to work in these communities to help address issues and to create stronger community supports. The research included in the original reports, and now the new website, is critical to better understand and address the specific, and sometimes unique, challenges each community faces.”
Complete information is currently included for Buffalo (east and west) and Niagara Falls on the website. As additional community information from residents and providers is collected through interviews and focus groups over the next several months for the remaining communities, the website will be updated.
The Mobile Safety-Net Team is an initiative of The John R. Oishei Foundation formed in 2009 as a local response to the nation’s economic downturn. The team uses research-informed practices to support and cultivate collaborations to strengthen under-resourced communities. They envision a thriving region that has the necessary resources to address community needs.
The University at Buffalo Regional Institute is a major research center within the UB School of Architecture and Planning. UBRI partners with foundations, local governments, not for profits, and others to guide informed decision making and to positively impact communities. UBRI focuses on topics such as economic development, workforce development, community revitalization, economic security, transportation and more.