On November 13, Stories of Atlantic City partnered with Outlier Media and The Free Press to present the findings of a needs assessment conducted in Atlantic City. The assessment took into account the responses of Atlantic City community members.
The most common need within the community, according to the assessment, is financial aid. Other important needs in the community include broader access to food, transportation, and other basic household utilities. The team hosted a follow up meeting on December 4 to strategically plan short-term and long-term solutions to meet the community’s information needs.
The assessment was conducted through the analysis of text messaging surveys, 211 call data, and demographic data. 211 call data spiked dramatically within the last year, with community members seeking out the resources they needed, and continue to need, to survive during COVID-19. In September of 2019, Atlantic City Residents called 213 times. In September of 2020, calls spiked to a whopping 1,265.
“When surveys are done, we ask them about the challenges that they’re going to face in the next few weeks or months. What kind of information gaps are there so we can find out what’s really going on?” said Sarah Alvarez, founder of Outlier Media.
The assessment, which identified information and accountability gaps, contributes to the overall goal of Stories of Atlantic City, Outlier Media, and The Free Press: to provide Atlantic City residents with the proper resources.
The demographic data revealed that the Atlantic City community is predominantly made up of working class people of color. Although each community is different, the commonalities of struggles amongst marginalized communities provided some insight into what organizations can do to help.
“Atlantic City doesn’t look that different from Detroit, Newark, or Stockton. There is a way to alleviate the suffering that people are going through,” said Alvarez.
There were three main ways that researchers identified critical information needs: prevalence, severity, and rarity. Prevalence refers to the information gap that affects the most people. In this case, it is unemployment, underemployment, lack of insurance coverage, and a gig economy that has become increasingly oversaturated.
Severity refers to what degree of critical harm that an information need causes. The lack of access to resources like food and transportation as well as the inability of community members to pay for rent or utilities is considered severe. Lastly, researchers analyze just how rare an information gap is relative to other communities.
After the initial presentation of data, those in attendance were split into teams in breakout rooms to discuss community issues and brainstorm potential solutions. Some community members expressed concern that no concrete action would be taken based on the data gathered. Community members were curious about what could be done state-wide and what the long-term and short-term solutions could look like. Marissa Luca, Stockton alumna and Multimedia Content Producer for Stories of A.C., recommended programs that encouraged community activism as a potential solution.
At the end of the meeting, there was a “lighting round of resources,” where attendees and participants alike shared local resources. For example, one program of note is a new rental assistant program that is giving grants to low and moderate income Atlantic City residents or free workforce training in fields such as hospitality, healthcare, and culinary arts at Atlantic Cape Community College. More information can be found at http://www.acianj.org or www.atlantic.edu.
The information assessment is one part of Stories of Atlantic City’s plan to provide resources and access to information to the A.C. community. Stories of A.C. regularly engages with A.C. residents through workshops, special projects, a community phone tree, and collaboration with both professional and student journalists.
“We are working on stories and information-sharing initiatives that inspire hope, change, and highlight experiences of resilience despite challenges,” said Christina Noble, Stories of Atlantic City’s part-time project manager. To stay updated, follow Stories of A.C. on social media.