Barriers for Latinos in Athens-Clark County, a Needs Assessment by PORTAL

Last week, PORTAL, the University of Georgia’s Latin American & Caribbean Studies Insitute shared the findings of their comprehensive needs assessment conducted in 2015-2016 in the community in Athens-Clarke County, Ga.

In addition to growth reflected in a share of 22.5% of the local school district, some of the challenges are reflective of the general picture we have of the Latino/Hispanic community in the state.  The population Athens-Clarke County surveyed is over 85% foreign born.  Half of those interviewed had lived in the the are for at least 11 years and 41% of them live in households with family members that have different status than themselves (mixed status families are estimated to be half of all Hispanic families in the state)

The report confirms with empirical information now what all Latino-serving professionals have known for a long time:  There is a lack of information and misinformation  about existing programs and services.  It is also very difficult for those families to call or go to an agency.  These finding are completely aligned with transportation, cultural and language barriers existing throughout the state that affect not only the Hispanic/Latinx population but ALL limited-English speaking immigrant communities.

Of the few Latino-serving organizations in the area, most of them lack the appropriate financial resources to provide much needed information and services to families, often times relying on volunteers that may not have the appropriate training and competence to deliver quality programs.  In addition to this limitation, there are no local Spanish-language media outlets in Athens-Clarke County.

Importantly, almost half of all surveyed noted the lack of an interpreter or translation services when interfacing with medical and social services even though those language capabilities and arrangements are mandated by federal law.

Low price elasticity and affordability are also key findings.  77%+  of surveyed individuals have a full time job yet over 60% of them had an income of $24,000 or less. 

Education was clearly a priority for those surveyed. Parents  made it clear that they want their children to stay in school, which often served as a motivation for them to continue their own studies. In Sonia’s words: “Yo tampoco no sé inglés, pero me gustaría para ayudar a mis hijos [con su tarea]” (I don’t know English either, but I’d like to so I can help my kids [with their homework]). 

The report is made public to inform the scope and delivery of services, community advocacy and policy initiatives.  If you are a decision maker or a Latino-serving profesional, take 10 min. of your time to read it.

The methodology included confidential and in-depth surveys to over 300 adults residing in the area.  This needs assessment is extremely valuable as it not only incorporates questions pertaining to different topics (health access, education, employment, etc) but also because is one of the very few studies done focused on the Hispanic/Latinx population outside Metro Atlanta.

The latest local needs assessments  and reports include the 2012 Georgia Latino Health Report undertaken by the now defunct Hispanic Health Coalition in partnership with the Rollins School of Public Health and more recently, a study focused on healthcare offer and needs undertaken by Mercy Care (limited to the Buford Highway corridor).  There was a needs assessment study conducted by Kennesaw University and funded in part by The Latin American Association in 2015, howeve results have not been made public yet.

There was also a workgroup formed in 2015 with the purpose of studying economic impact and a community development analysis of the Latinx and Asian population in Norcross (Gwinnett, Ga) a summary of results is available here




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Gilda (Gigi) Pedraza

Executive Director and Founder Latino Community Fund (LCF Georgia) Social Entrepreneur, Community Advocate, Latina, Mom, Wife. Lover of Life.

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