Community Needs Assessment

All Community Action Agencies throughout the United States conduct Community Needs Assessments 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 Community Needs Assessment 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.


Purpose of the Community Needs Assessment

To conduct a community needs assessment with an emphasis on meeting the CSBG requirements and developing a report of key findings to be used by SMCAA and its community partners for planning and other related efforts.


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

Top Five Community Needs in Southwest Michigan

In Southwest Michigan, certain community needs were identified as the causes and conditions of poverty, and are thus barriers to creating economic opportunity for those most vulnerable in the community. Key informants named the community’s Top Five Needs as:

  • Safe, Affordable Housing

  • Housing Repairs and Weatherization

  • Emergency Assistance and Services

  • Food/Nutrition

  • Job Opportunities with Living Wages