H.O.P.E and Survey Partners Identify Food and Rent Insecurities among Syracuse Residents
More than 200 people participated in Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E.’s Syracuse COVID-19 Experience Survey which identified food and rent insecurity as primary concerns ailing residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey revealed that the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated long-standing issues like housing, food, employment, and income insecurity among vulnerable populations.
“It was critical to assess the impact of COVID-19 on residents, particularly those who receive low wages, to better model solutions that meet their specific needs. That’s how H.O.P.E. identified its concentrated poverty community needs: through listening sessions—and our partners looked at those responses similar to how they are looking at these survey responses to help them understand how they can better fill in the gaps for their clients” said Ocesa Keaton, Executive Director of Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E.
Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E. is the community embedded antipoverty solution for the governor’s Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative funding community-centered solutions to reduce indicators of concentrated poverty in Syracuse.
The survey was compiled with support from partners at the Transforming Communities Initiative and Syracuse Onondaga Food Systems Alliance.
Concerning survey statistics found the following:
- Before March 2020, 14% of survey respondents struggled to pay rent on time. Now, that number has doubled to 28%.
- Over half of survey respondents have experienced a change in their employment situation since March 2020; almost 25% of respondents have lost their jobs since then.
The survey will also help the initiative lobby for aid for families as state and local municipalities are entangled in how to balance funding human service agencies who provide critical needs amid deep budget cuts.
“We’re sharing the survey with our elected leaders at the city, county, and state to aid policymakers in response planning and how they are identifying ‘systems gaps.’ Nonprofits and municipalities need to be partners right now and share information on how we aid one another in recovering as a community,” said Keaton.
The initiative hosted an online citizens town hall called ” Anti-Poverty Work is Anti-Racist Work ” recently and used survey responses to further inform questions to policymakers and direct-service workers around the COVID needs of residents.
When direct-service workers were asked what policies they’d like to see from policymakers, answers included universal internet for city residents and policies prioritizing the needs of children and adolescents.
Without federal aid to cities and states, local governments must weigh the needs of a growing vulnerable population in cities with high concentrations of poverty, like Syracuse, against balancing their budgets now depleted by ongoing covid-19 response.
Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E. is among several nonprofit groups still working to prioritize improved conditions for Syracuse residents despite funding insecurities. Its clients are amongst the most vulnerable and often are underserved by blanket one-size-fits-all solutions that don’t address the needs of those living in concentrated poverty as opposed to general poverty.
“The foundation of our work with Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E. is to empower neighborhood residents to change their perception of those experiencing poverty as well as change the perceptions of those who serve them: vulnerable residents must be empowered to be seen as people, not poor people, but people whose say in their lived experiences drive the policies that govern their lives,” said Keaton.
Over 200 respondents participated in the survey. Community partners who helped disseminate the survey include: Syracuse Dunbar Center, SUNY Educational Opportunity Center Work Train, Coordinated Care Services Inc. (CCSI), Street Addiction Institute Inc. (SAII), Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility Inc., and Community Connectors.
Survey results can be found on HOPE’s website or here: https://bit.ly/syrhope-citizenstownhall2020