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Issues

Issues for Community Services

Education and Schools

School facilities

Finance and taxation

Because of great differences in both the assessed value of properties within individual districts and, in some cases, rapidly increasing enrollments, property tax rates and per student spending varies widely in the county. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has recently released a "Costing Out Study" that estimates the cost of educational services among school districts.

Cost of educational services among school districts

Source: Augenblick, Palaich and Associaties, Inc., "Costing Out the Resources Needed to Meet Pennsylvania's Public Education Goals", Pennsylvania State Board of Education, December 2007

Transportation

Emergency Services

Disaster Planning

Equipment/Technology and Training

Emergency Response

Funding

Human Services

Human services funding is remaining steady, while the demand for services has grown. This increasing demand is partly due to the increase in the county population. The demand is also growing because of greater awareness of programs and more enforcement of regulations. There are more clients in the ten to thirteen age category, as children with developmental disabilities receive services earlier. State and federal funding has remained constant and the county government is expected to meet the increasing demand. Human services now constitute about 40 percent of the county budget. There is a need to get more support from private foundations.

Access

Limited public transportation creates challenges for human services clients. The human services community needs transportation to access service providers and employment. Although Chester County is a wealthy community, there are numerous pockets of poverty scattered throughout. Rural residents without cars are especially isolated because public transportation in those areas is very limited. The SCCOOT bus line serves the southern portion of the county, but the routes and stops are limited. This makes it difficult to get to services and jobs, which are scattered in many different locations.

Housing

Housing for human service clients is difficult to find, especially in desirable locations. Many clients have low incomes, have a disability, or have special needs. Locating in rural areas often makes it difficult for residents to access needed services or employment opportunities. Affordable housing in urban areas may be located in unsafe neighborhoods. Some settings present bad influences for people with special needs, such as mental health or dependency problems.

Transitional housing opportunities for clients that are homeless or in unsuitable housing are limited. There are homeless elderly in Chester County and shelters often do not meet the special needs that they may have. Mental health clients may be homeless or may be in prison and not receiving the treatment they need. Transitional housing that keeps clients off the street and in a supportive environment is needed until they can secure permanent housing.

Concentrated housing for the disabled may serve to marginalize and stigmatize residents. Mental health, mental retardation, and substance abuse clients are better served by living within the community as part of mixed income and diverse neighborhoods. Stable, supportive housing can permit the disabled population to live within and make positive contributions to the local community.

Employment

Disabled residents often have difficulty securing employment. People with disabilities need an opportunity to demonstrate that they are reliable workers. Steady employment is critical for clients to stabilize their lives and maintain or improve their housing. A partnership between human service agencies and the business community could be a win-win situation by providing jobs for people and quality, reliable workers for businesses.

Staffing needs of human service agencies and provider organizations are becoming harder to meet. Employers have a steady need to replace older, retiring workers. County agencies and service providers need a diverse, qualified workforce and bi-lingual workers to serve non-English speaking clients. High school and college graduates need better outreach and information about job opportunities in the human services fields.

Facilities and community support

Finding quality, affordable office space is difficult, particularly for human services providers. Office rents around the county are often too high for a government agency or non-profit budget. Also, there is a stigma for human service agencies, as well as their clients, and sometimes there is local opposition to them being in the area.

The lack of transportation is a major barrier for many human services clients who need access to services. Clients may need to make multiple trips to human service providers that are scattered in different locations. Public transit is available, but limited. There is also a need for in-home services for the elderly and disabled who have trouble getting out to service providers. Without access to services, some clients are not able to continue to live independently.

The "at risk' youth population is especially vulnerable. Prevention programs are needed to reduce the future demand for services. These youth need a support system to transition into adulthood. Without early interventions and support, "at risk" youth may drop out of school or become involved with drugs, crime, or other problems. Many communities are in need of programs that provide activities, supervised places to gather, and after school jobs.