2019 WIMAUMA SURVEY RESULTS by The Children’s Campaign
Submitted by Roy Miller, president
The Children’s Campaign undertook an extensive community survey to determine current priorities of community members throughout zip code 33598, especially regarding the needs for children and families. Careful advance planning ensured participation by 179 community members whether they lived in the historical parameters of the unincorporated enclave or in the newer housing developments nearby. Outreach methods included door-to-door canvassing (predominantly in the historical area), events and fairs, community of faith gatherings, and direct mail (especially newer housing tracts). Survey instruments included both English and Spanish versions. Administrators of the survey ensured assistance was made available in multiple languages.
We received a substantial level of community input with a diverse cross-section:
By number of years having lived in Wimauma:
|0-5 years||5-10 years||10+||Total|
|18-25||26-40||41-50||51-65||Over 65||No answer||Total|
Hispanic / Latino / Spanish: 34.4%
Black or African-American: 32.2%
As is reflected in the consensus areas highlighted below and detailed later in this report, respondents were mostly consistent in their priorities and strength of emotion regardless of demographics.
Regarding overall priorities as reflected by Wimauma respondents in answers to two separate opportunities for reflection, children and family issues and public education ranked the highest, followed by concerns about housing and jobs. This appeared to not only validate but also provide deeper insights and understandings of community feedback dating back more than 4 years. It was interesting to note that in spite of what is covered in local news and other media, concerns about public safety were not as high in importance to these respondents.
Regarding children’s issues specifically, as reflected in strength of agreement responses to a diversity of topics, the top 5 focused on Bullying (this area of concern is consistent with survey data collected by The Children’s Campaign in other parts of Florida); Safe Gathering Places (recreation oriented); Children of Homeless Families (families needing their own home rather than living with relatives and friends); Preparing Children to Enter School (Early Learning); and Helping Parents Find Affordable Quality Child Care.
It is very important to note the significance of the 3rd top priority above in the children’s issue mix – Homeless Families (families needing their own home). In other areas of the survey, respondents also identified housing as a major need. This response combination certainly elevates the urgency of the housing (lack of) issue into a major policy concern in this community.
Therefore, based on the findings, it is recommended that a children’s policy agenda consistent with the survey be adopted by the Wimauma Community Development Corporation; that housing, while generally considered as a separate issue, may be inextricably linked and/or connected to the children’s agenda as well; that a series of monthly community meetings be scheduled to discuss these priorities, challenges and opportunities with Wimauma residents and concerned citizens; and that other forums and summits as co-identified by the Wimauma Community Development Corporation and The Children’s Campaign in the 2020 workplan be scheduled and executed.
Also, outreach to local planning and funding bodies should ensue so that metrics can be developed as to the capacity of programs and services which would meet community needs consistent with the findings.
Expanded Survey Narrative
Respondents had great familiarity with Wimauma with 6 of 10 having lived in the area for more than 10 years. Another 12% had lived in the area for more than 5 but less than 10 years. Only 30% were relative newcomers, having lived in the area for less than 5 years. This is a significant reservoir of knowledge and experience on which to build future action.
About 1 of 3 reported living in the area known as Wimauma Village, most likely due in part to the fact that Wimauma team members of The Children’s Campaign canvassed door to door in that area. But about 3 of every 10 did not know if they lived in Wimauma Village or not.
It was learned in the follow-up focus group and advocacy training conducted by the author of this report that “Wimauma Village” is generally NOT a description used by residents, but rather a planning and zoning designation labeled or “coined” either by governmental growth management entities and/or NGOs or other. This strongly suggests that future communications from the Wimauma Community Development Corporation, The Children’s Campaign, and other groups should inform residents in the Wimauma area to better understand the geographical coordinates when discussing proposed projects or changes directed at that specific land mass in the community.
Overall, regarding the mood or “vibe”, there’s been an uptick in the local feeling that life in Wimauma is gradually improving, with 40 of every 100 reporting life is better over the past 5 years. However, just as many reported that life is “much worse” than those who reported life is “much better”. This could signal many things, including socio-economic factors and personal / family hardship, housing concerns, pent up frustration with the lack of governmental, NGO and private sector response to long-term needs such as the poor condition of nearby recreational fields, and concerns about the population growth and impact on roads, congestion, etc.
Regardless of their inventory about the overall quality of life, the tendency of residents is to frame the future through the eyes of their children. Given the opportunity to select only one priority on which the community should focus, slightly more than 3 of every 10 identified “doing more to help children and families”. Combined with those who chose public education as their top priority, which again shows interest in the future of children from a developmental perspective, nearly 5 of every 10 respondents were child-oriented. Of the remaining total, workforce housing and infrastructure such as sidewalks and sewers were the top 2 selected.
At the end of the survey, respondents were provided a second opportunity to provide a lens into their thinking, being asked to select the top 2 of 8 concerns, worded differently than their first appearance in the survey. Again, references to children were uppermost in their thoughts, with safe places to gather in the top spot. This was viewed as being at least equal in importance to improving public education. In this selection scenario, the lack of quality workforce housing (affordability), infra-structure such as street lights, sidewalks, and sewers were the next 2 priorities.
With housing of homeless children also being a strong area of agreement, overall housing challenges is certainly a major driver of public consensus in this community. Further, when given the opportunity to choose, jobs were essentially tied with public education, which based on past polling by The Children’s Campaign is a significant finding. Overall, the responses paint a picture that children (in or out of school), housing and jobs were very much at the top of the minds of these respondents.
The survey also drilled deeper into their thoughts about children in order to inform a specific policy agenda for that population.
Just about every topic listed showed widespread support for meeting the challenges, ranging from prenatal care to early education to services to older teens and concerns about gangs. Said another way, just about any challenge presented in the lives of children would be expected to receive support.
It is important to note that communication style about addressing challenges appears to be a critical factor. The only “pushback” the survey seems to have received appears to be the problem statements presented in the survey in “negative” terms (intentionally). This signals that Wimauma community members are very proud of their heritage. This observation was confirmed as well in the focus group. If challenges are presented as opportunities with positive messages to benefit children, they would be better received and more likely to receive community member support.
Among all the challenges presented about children, while all were supported with no less than a 2:1 margin of agree vs disagree, and for most the margin was even 4:1, some issues form a “wall of consensus” with as high as 60% of respondents in strong agreement and others staying above or near the 50% mark.
Listed in order of the top numbers, they are: (1) Doing more to stop bullying; (2) safe gathering places; (3) helping children of homeless families; (4) prepare children to enter school; and, (5) finding affordable child care. It was interesting to note that doing more to help disabled (special needs) children was as important to the respondents as was children dropping out of school without good job skills. Within the children’s agenda, special needs children should be included with specific mention.
While the lens of children bends a bit in the direction of addressing the needs of the younger ones, it appears to be driven to some degree by parental and family concerns about access. Overall, though, it does not appear that any one age group of children is seen as more important to address as any other.
It was interesting to note that perceptions about gangs and drug and alcohol use were on the lower end of consensus. And it was these questions specifically where the disagreement spiked a bit more than other areas, a potential signal about “negative” messaging of needs.
In addition, of special mention, is the high response to bullying concerns. While this may come as a surprise to some, it does not to those of us who have conducted polling surveys across the state. In numerous polls and surveys conducted by The Children’s Campaign, with the last one in 2018 for a proposed children’s taxing district in a major urban county, parental fear about their children being bullied was their number one angst. Parents understand the consequences of bullying, fear it at school, then worry their children could be targeted on social media.
If only these findings were used to generate the first wave of community conversation, bullying would be a very good place to start. It would certainly get the attention of community members and they, in turn, would believe the “listeners” turned “activists” clearly were plugged into their concerns.
NOTE 1: Excel spreadsheets with numbers are available and can be requested.
NOTE 2: Direct mail response rate is running double and even triple than expected with a 10% return. This signals direct mail in Wimauma zip code should be considered as a scheduled delivery mechanism for important matters, even with the higher expense cost.
NOTE 3: The original completed surveys have been mailed to The Children’s Campaign headquarters for preservation and to provide further analysis regarding specific information that may be requested as the policy agenda takes shape.
For more information, contact:
Roy Miller, president, The Children’s Campaign, 727-224-2774 (mobile) or firstname.lastname@example.org