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Community Needs Assessment: Franklinton

Written by: Hugo Gonzalez & Sally Dunlap

 

During the summer of 2015, engineering and social work students completed a needs assessment in Franklinton, an underserved neighborhood on the West side of Columbus, OH.  Below is a write up of the community needs assessment and also some suggested solutions:

Methodology

The Tech4Community research team used a variety of methods to conduct a needs assessment within the Franklinton community.  In an effort to engage the residents of Franklinton, the team conducted two focus groups at the Gladden Community House food pantry.  In addition, the team did intercept surveying at the Franklinton National Night Out 2015 event.  During this event, 38 residents were surveyed and the responses were analyzed.  Lastly, the research team met with a community leaders and organizational stakeholders.  Through meetings with the following stakeholders, the team was able to gather information about key needs throughout the neighborhood.  These stakeholders included:  Mt. Carmel West Health Resource Center, Franklinton Cycleworks, Gladden Community House, and Westside Food Mapping Committee (which involved representatives from Lower Lights Christian Health Center, Mt. Carmel West, Gladden Food Pantry, Franklinton Gardens).

Key Findings

Community Assets

In looking at the information gathered in Franklinton, one can see there are important assets that are hidden within the neighborhood.  It is clear that the most prevalent strength is the sense of community and identity within the neighborhood.  Many residents and stakeholders described groups of neighbors who look out for one another and communicate regularly.  From watching out for each other’s homes/belongings to simply conversing on a regular basis, the residents of Franklinton blocks connect on a more regular basis than one would see in a typical suburban neighborhood.  This creates a strong bond within what one agency representative called “micro-neighborhoods” within Franklinton.  

Furthermore, the residents/stakeholders described some avenues of communication as assets to the community.  They emphasized the importance of the neighborhood newspaper published by Gladden Community House, Franklinton News.  In addition, residents discussed that most people have smart phones and are active on Facebook which often becomes an important source of neighborhood updates and information.  Lastly, word of mouth is essential in Franklinton.  

Tying into communication, community centers and common spaces are seen as a definite strength.  The local social service agencies, recreation centers, churches, the library and schools provide common ground where residents can gather.  All of these locations have a great impact on the atmosphere of the neighborhood and are avenues for easy communication with the masses.

In looking at the role of technology in Franklinton, it is essential to consider these characteristics that are already strengthening the community.  One can then explore how different technologies can further grow what has already begun in Franklinton.  Yet, it is important to note that these listed assets have their limits and still have room for improvement which is further explained below.

Community Needs

While there was varied response and opinion throughout the needs assessment, many of our interviewees, focus group participants and survey respondents agreed on the following issues that the neighborhood residents face on a regular basis:

Issue
Details/Notes
Safety

Poor lighting

Affects many areas, especially beyond the main roads of the neighborhood are dark, which creates more opportunity for theft, car and house break-ins

Drug-related crimes

The majority of the theft, burglary, homicides and other crimes are related to drugs and substance abuse. Residents expressed their concerns as Mt. Carmel Hospital West has plans to relocate some of their facilities outside of the neighborhood.

Transportation

Nonexistent or poorly maintained sidewalks

Damaged sidewalks generally affect senior or disabled residents who cannot mobilize through the streets easily.

Insufficient bus routes

Current bus routes are not reaching big portions of the neighborhood, causing residents to walk long distances to reach the bus stop.

Note: This topic has been ambiguous in focus groups, as some neighbors consider it as a community asset, as they feel that COTA bus operation and routes are according to their expectations.

Food/Health

Lack of grocery store

Lack of purchasing power of the residents deters the arrival of large grocery stores in the neighborhood. Residents resort to corner stores for their purchases which usually offers products at a higher price. However, Lower Lights Christian Health Center has on-going plans to open a non-profit grocery store by August 2016.

Communication

Inefficient community communication channels

Lack of efficient communication between organizations, between organizations and residents and even between residents that do not live close by. Some of the causes mentioned were lack of public phones, lack of continuity of cell phone numbers by the residents and lack of coordination between organizations which causes overlaps in addressing community issues.

Housing

Abandoned houses

Widespread across the neighborhood and lead to higher crime.  They are used by criminals to distribute drugs and commit other crimes, as well as affecting the landscape and house prices. One interviewee suggests that the owners of these houses are waiting for government plans to increase housing prices and then sell. The process to solve this issue is lengthy and generally involves court appearances.

General/Home Maintenance

Expressed concern that the rent in Franklinton is higher with respect to other low-income areas.

Landlords do not maintain the houses properly: issues with heating, pests (roaches) and appliances were listed as common problems.

Employment

Employment

Residents feel that there are not enough jobs in the community. Furthermore, workforce development for residents is not available, along with efficient tools for job seeking. Residents with criminal records find it especially hard to find decent jobs.

 
 
TECHNOLOGY NEEDS ASSESSMENT SURVEY: FRANKLINTON
ANSWERS REPORT - SURVEY 08/04/15
TOTAL RESPONDENTS: 38
QUESTIONS
ANSWERS
# OF RESP
PERCENTAGE

How often do you use Internet?

Daily

28

74%

Weekly

2

5%

Monthly

1

3%

Never

7

18%

Which device do you mostly use?

Personal Laptop/PC

6

19%

Mobile phone

23

74%

Library PC

2

6%

Other

0

0%

What is the biggest need in Franklinton

Employment

9

24%

Housing

9

24%

Food/Health

9

24%

Safety

7

19%

Other

3

8%

Technology services needed

Computer and cell phone repair

13

34%

Appliances repair

15

39%

Food production

5

13%

Mobile applications

5

13%

Other

0

0%

 

Recommendations/Solution-Matching

 

Issue
Possible Solutions
Safety

Poor lighting

Solar LED lights

Lighting of abandoned homes

Drug-related crimes

 
Transportation

Nonexistent or poorly maintained sidewalks

Volunteering to fix sidewalks

Insufficient bus routes

Community car or bike sharing, bicycle lock up locations

Food/Health

Lack of grocery store

Rain gardens, greenhouses for produce production

Communication

Inefficient community communication channels

Community mobile application for resource promotion: job postings, community organization programs and

announcements

More internet access

Use billboards in central locations for neighborhood news/announcements

Time Banks

PC, tablet, mobile phone repair/update

Housing

Abandoned houses

 

Housing conditions

App for keeping track of landlord payments/receipts, landlord maintenance/exchanges/communication, etc.

Appliance repair

House insulation diagnosis

Employment

Employment

Basic technology skills education by engineers

Resume-building app

Entrepreneurship/Business Incubator