Gurpreet Virdi of Applications Management Consulting presents the Community Needs Assessment Summary to Council during their Sept. 17 Committee of the Whole meeting. – Lucie Roy Photo
by Lucie Roy
Gurpreet Virdi of Applications Management Consulting gave Council the Community Needs Assessment Summary during their Sept. 17 Committee of the Whole meeting.
“This is a really important and timely project, as the community continues to grow as the town of Morinville is doing,” Virdi said. “It is very important to look at what are the needs of the resident of the community in terms of impact on their quality of life, and as the community grows, those needs often evolve. And so it is very important to look at how you can respond to the changing needs of those residents as well as the organizations that are helping to support the social factors within the community.”
The project started at the end of May involved 400 participants through online surveys, stakeholder workshops and phone interviews. The group targeted three demographics: Adult Survey ages 25 to 64, Seniors (65 +) and youth (under 25).
The Resident Survey, which took place over the summer, indicated that criminal activity was the most critical social issue. This was followed by a lack of social activities and programs, affordable housing and a lack of public transportation.
For Social Program or Services, the most important priorities were recreation and leisure opportunities, followed by childcare and mental health and addiction supports then transportation all in the top four.
The Resident Survey indicated the barriers are lack of information about programs and services available followed by the cost of programs as number two and three, services and programs not offered.
There were over 110 contacts provided by FCSS with over 50 stakeholders taking part and representing a wide range of service organizations in the community.
Lack of public transportation was the most important Social Issue followed by depression or other mental health concerns, then availability affordable housing and housing options for all life stages.
Recreation and leisure opportunities were the biggest priority followed by mental health and addiction support, housing support and transportation.
Stakeholders said their primary sources of distribution information about social programs and services their organizations provided was through social media, word of mouth followed by posters or signs and websites. They are using a range of options but mentioned there are also members of the community who do not have access to internet or computers and need more of those physical spaces that have the information they are looking for, especially those at risk of homelessness and require more direct information posted up in more accessible places in the community.
Challenges or limitations to capacity and resources to provide social programs and services was report by 80% of the respondents.
There were three workshop sessions held to collect more detailed information about social program and service priorities, social issues, and understanding current space needs and assets.
Interviews were conducted to explore the needs of organizations that require space for meetings and their events and assets of organizations, such as Rendez-Vous etc. that provide a space.
The survey indicated currently around 30 building or facilities that are in use which covered five Churches, three Community Halls, two Government, six Recreation, Arts & Culture, seven Schools, six Support Services and two Emergency and Protective Services.
Eighteen organizations expressed a need for space to provide program and two an urgent need for operating space.
Applications Management Consulting offered three options for solving the community’s needs.
The first option was a Community Hub with organizations under one roof sharing the space. This option would include the Midstream Support Society and Food Bank, along with storage space, program delivery and office space and provide core and complimentary services and serve as a social gathering.
Option two was to address barriers to accessing existing space in the community concerning cost, hours available for booking, the type of space and location. The cost of facilities was the most frequent comment from the 400 participants along with availability to rent and the kind of space and location.
The third option was to provide individual support for organizations on a case-by-case basis to see how the Town can help support their space needs.
The consultants offered ten recommendations at Committee of the Whole. These included improving awareness of programs and activities, collaboration, community safety and perception of crime, childcare, advocating for more support for mental health and addiction, housing, volunteerism resources, engagement and research to refine space assets and needs.
Councillor Rebecca Belanko asked Virdi what really stood out for her from the participant’s comments.
“In terms of stakeholder engagement I think the biggest piece was just trying to build more support for the social sector in the community,” Virdi said. “I think the agencies feel like they are vital to the community, and they really want to continue to provide their services to residents of the community but having more support to be able to do that. That is something I think from the stakeholder point of view.”
Virdi went on to say their priorities in the report that the Town and local stakeholders are already doing. What could be most effective in the short term is more awareness of existing programs and services and setting up opportunities for collaboration.
The number one social concern in the report is crime and the perception of crime in the community.
Councillor Stephen Dafoe queried about the specifics of the crimes people talked about.
“I think what we largely heard was about property theft crime,” Virdi said. “Probably more largely minor theft crimes.”
Virdi clarified that when she talks about perception, it is with the ease of sharing crime information through social media. “Peoples’ perception about safety changes as a result of that and so is why we made some recommendations and strategies around how do you build that inclusive or make people more connected to their community,” Virdi said. “And also promoting things like the neighbourhood watch program that you are doing and relationships with the RCMP—things that are already happening but maybe promoting more of that in the community because there is that perception. ”
The full draft report will be brought to the Council meeting on Oct. 8.