Community Needs Roundtable 2014

On September 18, 2014, community leaders attended a Community Needs Roundtable to help the Community Foundation assess current and future needs on Nantucket in anticipation of CFN’s annual Community Grants cycle through the Nantucket Fund™.

A listing of community needs used by the Nonprofit Finance Fund (Community Needs List) was used and each participant was asked to select what they perceived to be the most pressing issues currently on Nantucket.

Greatest needs identified on Nantucket by the participants were:

Affordable housing: unanimous sentiment that this was our number one community issue, and affected all parts of our population and across the spectrum of seasonal and year-round, buyers and renters. Concerns were both for substandard housing conditions and the impact on workforce, friends & neighbors of the loss of affordable rental housing. Good infrastructure in place, but demand far outstrips supply – especially in the rental market. Discussion of why and what can be done ensued, but purpose of meeting was to identify and articulate needs so conversation moved on without consensus on solutions.

Substance abuse and mental health services: Consensus was that these two needs really conflate into a single set of issues given frequency of dual diagnosis. Impacts go beyond just the individuals needing services, who reflect a cross-section throughout the community, and the demands they put on the health care and public safety system, but also to their families, school system resources, and workplace. Infrastructure seems to be improving but more providers and services needed. As to why so problematic on Nantucket, many with issues come to Nantucket to get “away” from rest of world, but that very isolation proves problematic.

Public transportation: Many depend on NRTA for transportation (to work, to grocery stores and food pantry, etc.) and when it stops in October they are left without any transportation.

Childcare/after school care: some of the prioritization was based on Boys and Girls Club closing in March and April, and the need for alternative after school program space despite the school system’s effort to provide space for athletic activities. Others were supportive of Small Friends but concerned about the lack of other late afternoon opportunities for children that could provide affordable support for working families.

Moderators switched the conversation to whether the multi-cultural nature of the Island’s current demographics triggered additional needs in the community. Some infrastructure to support those looking to assimilate into Island community exists (school system, ELL programs, churches) but cultural resistance is strong and burden on especially the school system is intense. Solutions are complicated as, for example, the Hispanic population is not a single community but segmented into various groups based on geographic diversity within that population. All agreed that more conversation about cultural diversity and assimilation was warranted.