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2017 Community Needs Assessment - click here for the full report

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FEBRUARY 2017 NEWS

Community Needs Assessment - 

Newcomers, Family Finances Top the List
Artwork courtesy of Carrie Wagner at SepiaLepus Illustration, Providence, RI
Nearly 100 residents and partner agencies weighed in on Lowell's greatest needs and how to meet them in our 2017 Community Needs Assessment.

Conducted late last year, the assessment will help us focus our efforts on strengthening current initiatives and addressing gaps in services. The assessment's results also add to community-wide conversations about prioritizing unmet needs, and how residents and agencies can come together to meet them.

Residents who responded cited financial insecurity, affordable housing and access to job and educational opportunities as key challenges. They also expressed concern about the lack of culturally competent service providers and representation in city government. Neighborhood-focused needs included cleaner and safer streets, better public transportation, and crime prevention through increased lighting and improved police-community engagement. Finally, better connections with schools and understanding of school policies, along with more child-care and after-school options, are also priorities.

Residents affirmed that they felt connected to their cultural communities, and would enjoy more opportunities to make meaningful connections and build relationships across different communities.

Community agency representatives identified the following top community priorities: Increased assistance for refugees and newcomers, more opportunities to meet neighbors to share information and learn about other cultures, and increased educational opportunities, e.g. parenting skills, civic engagement, and community resources. Many service providers felt that more grassroots organizing and city-level advocacy for affordable housing, immigrant rights, and improved public transportation would benefit residents' quality of life. They also noted gaps in mental health services and substance abuse prevention/treatment programs.

One agency respondent commented, "There are many nonprofit agencies in the city doing similar work, but through transparency and communication, the level of overlap should be decreased." 

In a new phase of organizational governance, and with two new staff members, Lowell Alliance will use the results of the assessment to identify how best to meet community needs in accordance with our mission and mandate.  A strategic planning process to create a roadmap for 2017-2018 is currently underway, to be completed by the end of February.

To read a detailed report of the 2017 Community Needs Assessment, click here.


 

Know Your Rights Training Workshop

 

Tuesday March 14, 4 - 5:30 pm
Lowell Community Health Center
161 Jackson Street
6th Floor Training Room

 
Lowell Alliance is sponsoring a workshop with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition to "train the trainers" and help community agencies understand:
  • What changes have already been made by the administration
  • What an individual's rights are when they encounter law enforcement
  • What families should do now to prepare for the worst
  • Which local agencies are available to help
The workshop will be presented by Sarang Sekhavat, the Federal Policy Director at MIRA.

 

For more information or to RSVP, contact Director Nancy Coan at ncoan@ywacaoflowell.org. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Soady Ouch Recognized by Lowell Votes

Meet Soady Ouch, voting canvasser extraordinaire. Lowell Alliance's longtime Community Organizer, Soady began going door to door in the Lower Highlands and Acre neighborhoods a few years ago to discuss voting as an important citizen action and encourage people to register to vote.

During the recent local and national elections, Soady went above and beyond, bringing people to City Hall for a rally for civic engagement, providing transportation to the polls, and helping those who needed absentee ballots.

In honor of her work, and as one of their founders, Lowell Votes recently gave Soady a Volunteer Appreciation and Founders' Award for outstanding contributions to increasing civic engagement in Lowell.

Notes Soady, "I work with families who are going to citizenship interviews and I know who passes the test. I encourage them all to vote ... What is really needed in Lowell is more outreach and interpreters, to reach more people."

Congratulations, Soady - we appreciate your work in making Lowell a stronger and more engaged community!


 

Solidarity Lowell Stands for Justice 

Since November, Lowell Alliance has provided capacity building support to Solidarity Lowell's outreach committee, to connect its membership with Lowell's diverse communities and networks.

Solidarity Lowell is a coalition of community members of Greater Lowell working towards social justice and standing together against hate and discrimination.  To date, the group includes nearly 800 residents, and many have been active in calling representatives regarding issues for rapid response at the local, state, and national levels.

At present, the Greater Lowell Interfaith Leaders Alliance is leading Lowell's "Hate Has No Home Here" sign campaign through Solidarity Lowell. If interested, signs are available at the Hate Has No Home Here website.

United by 6 pillars, community outreach liaisons will begin contacting and building relationships with allied agencies and community groups to learn more about their work and identify opportunities for the Solidarity Lowell membership to help them achieve their mission in serving the community.

 

New Coalition Aims to Fill Gaps for Refugees and Newcomers

Lowell has long served as a gateway city for people from other countries, its history and culture shaped by the immigrants and refugees who have settled here. Irish, Greek and French Canadian immigrants helped build Lowell into one of America's largest industrial centers in the 19th century. Lowell also welcomed Cambodian refugees fleeing genocide in the 1970s and 80s, as well as Iraqi, Burmese and Congolese refugees who have arrived in recent years,

Despite this rich history, assistance to immigrants in Lowell is presently provided on an ad hoc basis, with family members, social service agencies, and the public schools stepping in as needed to help them find their footing and establish new lives. Refugees receive support from the International Institute for the first three months following their arrival, but the vast majority of refugees face significant challenges and require continued assistance to help them successfully acclimate to a new country and culture.

In response to this, Lowell Alliance is participating in a new collaborative initiative to better understand newcomer and refugee needs and coordinate services and support for newly arrived families. Representatives of key groups such as the Lowell Public Schools, African Cultural Center, Lowell Community Health Center, and International Institute are aiming to facilitate a more coordinated approach that we anticipate will better address issues that typically arise when people are adjusting to change in an unfamiliar culture and don't have a access to a comprehensive system of supports.

This need was made tangible through our winter coat drive. Lowell Alliance delivered coats to a Ugandan family who had immigrated to Lowell several months ago. The family of six was living in an unfurnished apartment, where they had been sleeping on the floor. Lowell Alliance, in partnership with World Inc., stepped in to help the family pick up beds, a dining room table and chairs, lamps and kitchen utensils at Household Goods in Acton, MA. We also provided toys, books and clothing for the children, aged 1 to 11 years old, and connected them with services through CTI's Family Resource Center.

This new working coalition is currently developing a framework to insure that refugee and immigrant families like this one receive a coordinated, comprehensive set of services to meet their many needs, that includes the involvement of City Hall with various community agencies.

 
Khmer Community Group

A Farm-to-Table Cooking class provided by Mill City Grows will help group members who garden at Franklin Court Community Garden prepare healthy meals using local produce for multi-generational families. Some family members lean toward more "American" dishes, others toward traditional Khmer ones.  The five-part workshop series will kick off in early March.
 
Conference yields garden ideas - Staff and a Khmer group representative recently attended a Northeast Organic Farming Association Winter Conference. They hope to share what they learned with the larger group of Franklin Court gardeners: Using herbs for stress relief, and inter-generational, cross-cultural models that use community gardens for teaching.

 

Coming Soon!

 
We help families and neighborhoods thrive by connecting them with critical resources and empowering them to fulfill their vision for the community.
Copyright © 2017 Lowell Alliance, All rights reserved.


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