Results of new survey demonstrates the need for coordination in social services
By: Matias Brunet-Kirk
The Supporting Parc-Extension Residents Project (SPER) released the findings of its Needs Assessment survey last Friday, in hopes of assessing “the ability of parents and communities to better protect their children, seniors, and families.”
That was in addition to the objective of identifying “the capacity of local community organizations in order to effectively coordinate and support the community.”
The survey was conducted over a vast array of Parc-Extension residents to assess the evolution of their needs since the start of the pandemic. Supporting Parc-Extension Residents Project said they canvassed over 370 people from a large range of socio-economic situations and ethnic communities and have ensured it is statistically representative of the area.
Push for Coordination
One of the study’s most alarming findings, project volunteers stated, was the lack of knowledge residents had of the local organizations that could support them. In many cases, as little as 10% of respondents knew of the organizations that currently operate in the area.
“We want to distribute responsibilities, said project director, Asad Rahman, “we are looking for a harmonized system of support and coordination to create easy access for the residents.”
By doing so, Rahman said organizations could operate under the ethos of “you can help me I can help you; we can work together.” He added that all organizations could “distribute responsibility by pocket,” and help each other advertise their services to the community organizations.
A community in need
The study demonstrated the many inequalities that exist in Parc-Extension and how they have been compounded due to the COVID-19 crisis. For example, the study states that approximately 31% of Parc-Extension residents lost employment over the course of the pandemic and 57% experiences some form of mental health problem.
With a majority of residents in the area living in rented housing and many on a low monthly income, the study also demonstrated how the COVID-19 pandemic further strained people’s resources.
Study findings demonstrate that although 80% of households have enough income to pay for extra food expenditures, that number drops to roughly 28% of households having enough to pay for extra hygiene products, personal protective equipment and transport.
“A lot of people are not only living below the low-income level, they don’t even have food for the week, they don’t even have a loaf of bread,” said Vanessa Viel, the project’s client lead. “It’s really sad to see that in Canada people are going without a loaf of bed, or milk, or the basics that everybody should have,” she said.
Tools to help
To help better respond to these realities the group also developed a geographical planning tool in the form of a map, to be able to better target different groups of people and better respond to their needs.
“This is a planning tool to serve better,” said Rahman, adding that “if a community organization sits with the map, they can plan how to reach people and where to reach them.”
Pointing to the northwest corner of Parc-Extension and a small block around Ogilvy street, Rahman indicated that the geographical tool helped them locate where help was most needed. “Most of the refugees live in that corner,” said Zamal Naser, Coordinator Sarker Hope Foundation.
“This is how a map helps you to determine the vulnerable pockets of your geography and where to go,” said Rahman, “because without mapping your geography, you cannot provide support.”
The study also outlines several recommendations to help alleviate these issues. It stresses the importance of education for both citizens, various organizations in the neighbourhood and all levels of government. “We want more flexibility in support,” said Rahman, adding that many decision-makers “are not listening to the resident’s voice.”
“With the findings, we can all learn from it, we can all benefit from it; all organizations,” said Viel, underlining the collaborative spirit behind the study in understanding “exactly what each individual needs and then to better our services.”
According to Mustaque Sarker, president of the Sarker Hope Foundation, the pandemic was what made him realize the extent of the need for help in the community he has lived in for over 40 years. “It hit home,” he said, adding that “you have to wake up and you have to help each other.”
Though the original mission of the Sarker Hope Foundation is to provide support for orphans in developing countries, the pandemic made it that response at home was necessary. “This is our home,” we cannot ignore home,” said Rahman.