Compass II Project, sponsored by the United Way of the Wabash Valley, Wabash Valley Community Foundation and Indiana State University, is designed to address problems and opportunities across ethnic, racial, religious and social strata by determining the health and human services needs and assets within an eight-county area in Indiana and Illinois. Counties in Indiana are Clay, Parke, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo, along with Clark, Crawford and Edgar in Illinois.
A total of 1,076 surveys were distributed to organizations including service providers, churches, associations, labor unions, educational institutions and businesses with 307 respondents. Assets were determined and volunteerism was found to be a major compo nent of everyday life in the Wabash Valley. Interest in expanding services is limited but service providers expressed a desire to increase recreational opportunities and improve neighborhood safety. Job training and education are also high priorities, but increasing employment opportunities appears to be mid- to low-level priority. A phone survey of randomly selected residents in Vigo and Sullivan Counties was designed to gather opinions from area residents on their perceptions of needs in their neighborhood and in their own households. Vigo County served as the retail/commercial center of the region while Sullivan County was selected as a representative sample of rural areas. Clay County and the other counties weren't surveyed. Of the 692 household contacted, 281 agreed to participate.
Neighborhood strengths were trust, coming together in time of need and participating in common activities.
More than 26 percent of the respondents have lived at their current address for two or less years. These "newcomers" had a different perspective of issues in their neighborhood and were more likely to report negatively. Respondents with lower incomes reported more moderate to major issues than other higher income groups.
Unemployment/underemployment, poor road/traffic conditions and public transportation, shortage of affordable housing, lack of affordable care for children, alcohol/drug abuse, lack of affordable medical care, anxiety/depression, shortage of recreational/cultural facilities, water/air/noise pollution and crime were found to be the main household concerns.
The household survey suggests a much larger problem of economic issues than the official statistics. The unemployment rate in Vigo County is 4.3 percent and 3.6 percent in Sullivan County. Yet 10.2 percent report difficulty in finding jobs.
A separate key informant survey was mailed to 610 community leaders in both counties to assess community strengths and challenges with 360 respondents. Of those, 61 percent see more weaknesses in the community than strengths. Their responses suggest that even if the community can identify problems to tackle, the community may not be able to effectively address those problems. This may be the reason so many respondents added that issues of leadership and vision were major.
Respondents to the key informant survey listed 17 issues as major to moderate. However, at least 40 percent of the household respondents listed all but unemployment as not an issue. There appears to be something of a disconnect between the key informant's views and the public's views of major challenges. It is important to note that key informants were asked about the community whereas householders were asked about their neighborhoods and households.
Compass II Community Partnership will use this information to develop a community vision regarding health and human services, select priority issues with desired outcomes and build a community impact plan. It will also be made available to individuals and organizations throughout the Wabash Valley for use in grant writing.
The visioning process will select priorities, establish targeted community outcomes and develop action plans by connecting strengths and assets with strategic opportunities to begin sometime this spring. Implementation of those plans and tracking their progress is the final phase of Compass II.