Georgetown needs assessmentResidents in southeast Georgetown are in need of transportation options, quality housing, better nutrition and child care, according to a study completed by the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis from The University of Texas.

The Southeast Georgetown Needs Assessment, commissioned by the Georgetown Health Foundation, explored the challenges, wants and needs facing low-income residents in southeast Georgetown. Members of the IUPRA research team presented the results to community leaders at East View High School on Nov. 12.

The health foundation works alongside and financially supports various organizations, such as The Caring Place, Lone Star Circle of Care and the Boys and Girls Club of Georgetown, said Suzanna Pukys, GHF director of community resources. She said the foundation wanted to make sure it is funding the needs of residents in Georgetown through these different groups.

“We wanted to delve into some research and better understand if the things that we’re funding are in line with what the community articulates as its needs,” she said.

Since the city of Georgetown has been experiencing growth and changes in demographics in the past few years, the health foundation wanted the needs assessment to explore the challenges that face low-income residents. Pukys said they also wanted the research to be completed by an outside third party that could take an objective look at the area.

One of the health foundation’s main goals was to also hear about the needs directly from the low-income community, Pukys said.

“We have some great needs assessments and feedback from the folks who are in the trenches doing the direct service work, but didn’t really have a community voice,” she said. “With low-income residents being our target population, we really wanted to hear directly from them.”

The IUPRA research team mainly examined the 78626 area code, which Pukys said has the highest number of low-income residents in the city. However, the area represents issues experienced by the entire city, said Shetal Vohra-Gupta, the principal investigator who chaired the research team.

From April to September, the team conducted 19 interviews, 13 focus groups and a survey to reach the voices of the most marginalized community members, Vohra-Gupta said.

Overall findings

The team’s findings suggested the area needs better public transportation options—the focus groups discussed roadblocks to basic needs such as going to the doctor or grocery store and how a lack of public transit could limit choices for maintaining healthy lifestyles.

“Every focus group talked about this,” Vohra-Gupta said. “Transportation around Georgetown was the second highest unmet need for survey participants, and transportation outside of Georgetown was the fourth highest unmet need for survey participants.”

The focus groups, interviews and surveys also listed access to day care and after school programs and access to college readiness programs as issues. Also on the list were equitable access to healthy foods and nutrition education, access to affordable dental care and quality mental health services.

The Georgetown residents also wished to have more of a voice in community decisions. Vohra-Gupta said this is a common problem—low-income residents are often the least active at speaking out because they feel a lack of connection to community leaders.

“When it comes to political participation, they are often the most marginalized, and therefore they don’t participate,” she said. “So it is imperative for those that are in positions of leadership to reach out and to connect to make that connection happen.”


The research team offered short-term and long-term recommendations to combat these needs, including installing an affordable public bus system,  after-school and summer activities, providing social services in Spanish, increasing access to healthy food options and culturally competent nutritional programs. The team also recommended establishing community liaison positions.

Pukys said GHF’s first step is to evaluate the findings and make decisions on where to focus its efforts. She said she hopes the report will act as a springboard for conversation with community members and get groups and leaders to think about collaboration in new ways.

“We recognize that not one of these recommendations can be accomplished as a single organization,” she said. “These need to be worked at in collaboration with a cross sector of the community, so it’s going to take some time to figure it out, reach out and find out who would be a willing partner.”