Two online surveys underway are meant to provide the information the District of Houston council needs to bolsters its long standing position that there needs to be improvements in social services provided in the community.
“It was identified that there was an overall lack of cohesion in how social services are provided in the community, which is primarily due to many core services being provided by service agencies outside the community, i.e. Smithers, Burns Lake,” said District of Houston assistant corporate services officer Madelaine Swift who is in charge of the survey project.
That came out of discussions with existing service providers in the area, she said.
“It was decided that an assessment could gather more data what these local gaps are to better inform social service planning, narrow advocacy efforts, and provide recommendations to improve services.”
To that end, the survey asks Houston residents about their knowledge of services available to them and what missing services there might be that would benefit the community.
Specific areas of interest include overall health services, food security, mental health and addictions, victims services, senior services and education.
In the past, for example, the council has been critical of the decision of Coast Mountain College to close its Houston campus, saying access to education is a determining factor to both encourage people to move to Houston and to keep people here once they arrive as well as to provide specific skills leading to employment.
Money for the project is coming through the Union of B.C. Municipalities via a provincial government strategy to reduce poverty in the province. Contractor Urban Matters has been hired to manage the survey response and write a report.
Swift said the second survey, one for young people to fill out, continues council’s wish to find out what level of social services exist now for young people in the community.
“Due to the regionalization of various services, the District and local service providers are not sure if there is a gap in youth services or not, the purpose of the assessment is to identify if any exist, and if so, where they exist and how local actors can work together to fill these gaps,” she said.
Young people are asked what their post secondary or work plans are immediately after high school, if they intend to stay in the area or leave, what activities they participate in and services their either use or would like to have on hand.
“Having this data will be beneficial for council and various service providers in the community to understand what social supports are needed for youth in Houston,” said Swift.
The District of Houston’s website has the necessary information to fill out each survey. The deadline to fill them out is the end of January.