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Community Needs Assessment

All Community Action Agencies throughout the United States conduct Community Needs Assessments (CNA) every three years. These assessments help determine the underlying causes and conditions of poverty within our neighborhoods and identify unmet needs. The assessment then guides our work to implement programs that help our most vulnerable residents out of poverty.

Background of Community Assessment

The purpose of this CNA Report is to provide SMCAA with a community assessment to fulfill the requirements specified by Community Action funders and CSBG, and to determine the current needs, strengths, and assets of the Community Action service area. In addition to meeting the timelines and criteria established by funding sources, the results of this study will guide SMCAA’s strategic planning process.

In collaboration with the community and residents, SMCAA is committed to identifying and responding to needs with programs and services, as well as advocacy, which will provide impact on improving the quality of life for low-income members of Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties. Every three years, SMCAA must conduct a thorough needs assessment of its service areas. This assessment represents a critical component of the overall planning process and is developed to encourage strategic thinking about the Agency’s capacity to impact households and the community in a positive direction towards eliminating poverty.

Assessment and planning will not stop with the publication of this report. As conditions in our community change, SMCAA will adjust the routes taken to reach the goals set forth by the Agency. We are confident that defining our community’s needs will result in better services to our clients, better outcomes of our programs, and a forward-moving path for all of Southwest Michigan to follow.

Community Needs Assessment

Click the image to read the full 2021 SMCAA Community Needs Assessment Report.

Purpose for the Community Needs Assessment

A CNA is the key component of the ROMA Cycle's first phase: Assessment.

The CNA sets the stage for the Agency's Planning process. CSBG and its

Organizational Standards require a CNA be done by SMCAA every three

years. The last CNA was conducted, reviewed, and approved by the Board

of Directors in 2018.

Determine Assessment Criteria and Strategize

Prepare to conduct the CNA by identifying development team members, obtaining necessary resources, and determining the goals of the CNA. Goals expected:

  • Identify causes and conditions of poverty in Southwest Michigan

  • Determine the level of poverty in community and the needs of low-income persons

  • Determine how well those needs are being met

  • Identify community strengths, assets, and barriers


Collect, Analyze, and Present Data

Use a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze data in order to find trends and identify specific needs to focus the CNA’s key findings. Quantitative data came from numerous online sources including the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey, 2-1-1 Dashboard, Community Commons, and many more. Qualitative data came from:

  • Community stakeholder surveys – community partners, elected officials, Board of Directors, SMCAA staff, and the general public

  • Agency-wide client satisfaction surveys

  • Other agency and community partner databases


Apply the Criteria and Prioritize Need

Determine the scope of the CNA by focusing on specific needs to be addressed. Per Org. Standard 3.2, data specific to poverty and its prevalence related to gender, age, and race/ethnicity in the SMCAA service area was required. How community organizations focus on the community’s needs, in what meaningful ways services are being delivered to area residents, and what the gaps in service to people are were also important questions considered while conducting the CNA.

Through thoughtful consideration, it was determined the top (5) community needs in 2021 are:

  1. Safe, Affordable Housing

  2. Housing Repairs and Weatherization

  3. Emergency Assistance and Services

  4. Access to Food/Nutrition

  5. Job Opportunities with Living Wages

Identify Next Steps and Report Findings

The full CNA Report fulfills this final step in the community assessment process. Please find the report above.

Helping community
Community data
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