San Augustine Co. to put community needs assessment to use in addressing poverty issues

SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) - San Augustine County is now armed with extensive research on the lacking social services for the poor, ill, old, young, and uneducated in that county. A community needs assessment conducted by Stephen F. Austin State University's School of Social Work was presented to county officials Thursday.

"Assessment documents for that three year project," Dr. Freddie Avant said "Thanks so much."

San Augustine County Judge Samye Johnson wanted a community needs assessment to help show how the county's poverty is impacting the well being of all county residents.

"When you have terrible poverty you have problems with alcohol and drug addiction," Johnson said. "You have problems with abuse to children. All these things are tied together."

SFA researchers, with social work graduate students, hit the back roads conducting interviews and handing out surveys. Trust was vital, particularly in the growing Latino community.

"It was a fun day filled with sports and food," said Alba Villegas, the dean's research award winner. "I was there with another SFA student and we helped them fill out the questionnaires and it was a success."

"I just really saw the needs that others had and how they really wanted us to know what they were growing through so they could get help," Kimberly Thompson, lead data analysis.

The community embraced the efforts.

"It gives every citizen in the community to speak," said George Simon, the executive director of Tri-County Community Action, Inc. "Makes them feel a part of it versus just something to be talked about."

That's because the judge insisted on solutions.

There are all sorts of recommendations in this assessment, but the one you'll be hearing about first is the development of the San Augustine Multi-Service Center. All the social services will be housed under one roof.

The county purchased the foreclosed title for $50,000 and then sold it to Community Action for the same amount. Social service agencies moving into the facility will support operational costs.

Senior William King will benefit.

"I like it close by," King said. "You don't have very far to go. Places like that you have it all in one, you know."

SFA and Johnson said this is one assessment study that won't gather dust.

"We now want to see that it becomes an intervention and that there really is a difference made in the community," said Dr. Emmerentie Oliphant, the project leader.

"To have programs to enrich people's lives that will help them support their families and get on the tax roll," Johnson said. "It's a win-win."

Johnson's innovative approach to obtain research services is receiving lots of notice.

Other counties are asking the SFA School of Social Work for similar studies.

Copyright 2014 KTRE. All rights reserved.