LAS VEGAS - The United Way is at the forefront of helping poverty-stricken Las Vegans recovering from the recession. For the first time in five years, the valley is getting a new look into the needs of the city with the release of a new survey.
The United Way of Southern Nevada surveyed 900 Clark County residents, including those seeking help at Clark County Social Service.
It's no surprise nearly half of those surveyed had a person in their household unemployed within the last year. When asked why, however, the answers get interesting. Middle income people blame the recession for unemployment. Poorer families blame a lack of available job training.
"What it really tells us is community colleges… we need more job curriculum in the community colleges," said United Way of Southern Nevada CEO Cass Palmer.
Nearly half of lower-income families surveyed believe they live in unsafe neighborhoods. When asked how many have actually been victims of crime, the numbers aren't much higher than middle income families. The at-risk population is afraid of crime, but they aren't experiencing it more than anybody else.
"It's the perception of being in an unsafe area," explained Palmer.
People fear crashing on our roads almost as much as home invasion robberies.
When people get sick, lower income families say the University Medical Center Emergency Department is by far their number one option. More alarming, a small but noticeable portion of lower-income people said suicide was their choice if they need to see a doctor.
In 2007, when the city was booming and nearly everybody could find a job, top concerns included stopping smoking, home repairs and not having enough extra money. All those concerns fell off the radar of southern Nevada residents once the economy crashed.
Education has always been an issue in southern Nevada. While community leaders surveyed say resources should go to raise high school graduation scores, lower-income parents disagree. They say elementary reading and math skills should get top focus.
They seem to be conflicted, however, of how much attention they give to their kids' schoolwork. At-risk parents believe that they are taking care of their child's educational needs as best as they can, but they think everybody else is really terrible at it.
"I found that data point fascinating myself. Everybody is throwing the stone in a different way," Palmer said.
Most of the problems facing lower income families that were highlighted in this survey may have common sense solutions. Even social service professionals, however, can be surprised about what they find when they ask those who need the most help.