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Survey of Springfield residents impacted by the justice system emphasizes need for housing, jobs

Community leaders hear results of a survey conducted by the Western Mass. Economic Development Council.
Elizabeth Román
Community leaders hear results of a survey conducted by the Western Mass. Economic Development Council.

A new survey of Springfield residents who have been incarcerated, or have relatives who have served time, revealed that many people struggle to access support services.

The survey is part of a Western Mass Economic Development Council grant looking to asses the needs of families affected by the justice system.

Anne Kandilis is the director of Springfield Works, a community-wide initiative of the council. She said housing and employment are where people need the most support, but don't know how to get it.

"Well, 40% didn't know where or how to access resources. So we spend a lot of time and money doing good things, but we're not supporting the family in a wholistic way," she said.

The survey came about as part of a $400,000 Community Empowerment and Reinvestment grant, with a goal of finding ways to mitigate the negative impacts of incarceration on those who have served time as well as their families.

Of those surveyed:

  • 51.7% of local adult respondents were formerly incarcerated, while 90.8% have family members who have been incarcerated.
  • 17.4% were white, 35.4% were Black, 42.1% were Hispanic/Latino, and 5.1% belonged to other racial groups.
  • 32.2% of formerly incarcerated respondents were less likely to have stable housing and 22% more likely to live in a shelter, their car, or the streets.
  • Housing and employment are the most highly sought after supports.

State Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, D-Springfield, said the survey is valuable especially because of who participated — people from marginalized communities who face discrimination, food insecurity and struggle with housing and employment.

"What most people want from my communities, the community I came from, with public housing, they want a hand up, not a hand out," he said.

Now that the data has been collected Kandilis said many agencies as well as political and community leaders in Greater Springfield have come together to look at the results and find ways to make services more accessible to the people who need them.

"We are thinking about working together in new ways to actually leverage the great assets we have in our community and the investments our government makes," she said. "We want to create a platform for change, innovation and sustainable support systems."

Elizabeth Román edits daily news stories at NEPM as managing editor. She is working to expand the diversity of sources in our news coverage and is also exploring ways to create more Spanish-language news content.
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