Innovating HUD Homeless Counts

ASR focuses its community building efforts to end homelessness through peer-centric data collection that informs community action. Read about how ASR's processes have developed and evolved from 2005 to 2017. Article included media links to coverage from the 2017 Homeless Point-In-Time Counts.

5-Year Triple P Report Released!

Triple P - Positive Parenting Program, a  program of First 5 Santa Cruz County, released their 5-Year (2010-2015) report last Thursday (May 26th, 2016) highlighting the program's effectiveness of teaching practical, scientifically-proven parenting strategies in order to strengthen communication and relationships among families in Santa Cruz County. 

A snapshot of Triple P's impact.

A snapshot of Triple P's impact.

ASR is proud of the tremendous work this program is doing in our county and we were very excited to have been engaged in this project by providing the graphic and infographic design work. 


Stories from the Count

Because the event draws folks from all walks of life, many who have never met before, it provides the opportunity for volunteers and guides to meet new people, many from different walks of life. When teams come back to their deployment centers, we frequently hear lots of stories about their time during the count. Here is a little sampling of some of those stories:

  • A volunteer shared her phone with her guide so that he could send his mother pictures of him participating in the count
  • Volunteers and guides exchanging ideas for a guide to surviving while experiencing homelessness
  • Some guides shared stories on finding and removing trash from encampments
  • Specialty teams focused on the vehicularly housed got up extra early in the morning and starting their count at 1AM
  • There were many incidents of volunteers buying coffee and breakfast for their guides
  • Many volunteers relayed that their guides were vital to the process, continually finding individuals experiencing homelessness in locations they would have missed under normal circumstances

We don’t always get lots of opportunities to spend time in the field, but it is examples like these that provide the strong reminders of the many positive impacts this kind of work can have in a community. Working to shed light on the experiences of homeless individuals and how they deserve just as much respect and care as housed individuals is an important goal for us at ASR and we look forward to continuing this mission. 

What is the Homeless Census and Survey?

ASR has worked with county organizations to conduct a Homeless Census and Survey since 1999 and is proud to have worked in counties throughout California and the country. All counties hoping to receive funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are mandated to conduct a count of all homeless persons living in their county during the last 10 days of January on a biennial basis, currently occurring during odd years.  While some counties opt to conduct these counts themselves, others (including San Francisco, Santa Clara, and more) choose to work with ASR.

To conduct this count, ASR uses a method teaming community volunteers with currently homeless, paid guides. These teams, traditionally two members but sometimes more, are assigned a federal census tract and are responsible for covering all ground inside that area, taking note of any and all homeless persons they find. Teams conduct visual counts and do not engage with the folks they are counting. When possible, they are asked to record some basic demographic information, primarily involving gender, age and family status. These responses are added to a shelter count conducted the night before and, when combined with some information from the survey, give the number of homeless persons residing in the county during the time of the count. ASR’s method of pairing a community volunteer with a homeless guide has been recognized as a best practice by HUD.

After the count is completed, surveyors are selected from the homeless guides who participated in the count. The survey team conduct hundreds of surveys over the next couple of weeks, gathering important, in-depth information on the experiences of individuals experiencing homelessness. They are paid for conducting surveys and individuals surveyed are given incentives for taking the survey. Counties and local service providers can and do use this data to better inform their choices on what sorts of services to provide, where to provide them, and as a guideline on how to better address the needs of the homeless population. 

If you would like to learn more about ASR's work on homelessness, please visit this link or email Peter Connery. 

The 21st Annual Santa Cruz Community Assessment Project

Yesterday, ASR joined the United Way, Dominican Hospital, and a host of community stakeholders, elected officials, and interested community members for the release of the 21st annual Community Assessment Project (CAP). Santa Cruz County's CAP is the second longest running CAP in the country and has received national and international awards for its continued updates about life in Santa Cruz County. This year's presentation recognized community heroes and laid out community goals for 2016-2020. 

The CAP tracks indicators that touch in all aspects of life in Santa  Cruz County, including Public Safety, Education, Natural Environment, and others. Below are some highlights from this year's report. 

Recent improvements in quality of life:

Director of Santa Cruz County Probation Department Fernando Giraldo presenting the public safety findings. 

Director of Santa Cruz County Probation Department Fernando Giraldo presenting the public safety findings. 

  • 61% of CAP survey respondents reported being “very satisfied” with their quality of life in 2015.

  • Unemployment went down in the county for the last 4 years from 12.1% in 2011 to 8.7% in 2014.

  • There was a 44% decrease in the number of homeless persons counted in the biennial point-in-time count from 3,536 individuals in 2013 to 1,964 in 2015.

  • Alcohol use by teens has been going down for 7th-11th graders since 2004/2005 with 47% of 11th graders having used alcohol in the past 30 days prior to the survey in 2004/2005 to 34% in 2014/2016.

  • The county high school graduation rate has been increasing from 81% in 2009/10 to 86% in 2013/14.

  • Crimes in the county decreased from a rate of 39.6 per 1,000 residents in 2009 to 34.6 per 1,000 in 2014.

Special concerns:

Robyn McKeen of the United Way of Santa Cruz County presenting the findings on the social environment. 

Robyn McKeen of the United Way of Santa Cruz County presenting the findings on the social environment. 

  •  Over 80% of low income families eligible for subsidized child care do not get it due to funding shortages.

  • The occupations with the most projected job growth over the next ten years in the county are for personal care aides and home health aides, with low salaries (a median annual salary of approximately $23,000 in 2012) especially for such a high cost county.

  • Latino CAP survey respondents were significantly more likely to go without food when their current supply ran out (43% of Latino respondent said it was “sometimes” or “often” true), compared to White respondents (12% of White respondents said it was “sometimes” or “often” true).

  •  94% of White CAP telephone survey respondents had a regular source of health care in 2015, compared to 80% of Latino survey respondents, a statistically significant difference.

  • Water availability was the #1 environmental concern according to 2015 CAP survey respondents.

If you would like to view the report or read the goals for 2020, please click here. If you would like to contact ASR about the 21st CAP report, please click here

ASR at the OECD's 5th Annual World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy

In October, Susan Brutschy and Samantha Green of Applied Survey Research had the privilege of attending the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 5th World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy in Guadalajara, Mexico. The conference provided an opportunity to raise our gaze beyond community level work, hear from international experts and acknowledge our role in a global world. 

Over the past decade the OECD has worked to place a broad understanding of wellbeing at the core of national and international policy. Just three years ago, at the 4th World Forum in Delhi, India the forum was very much about moving beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and developing new measures of progress. The 5th world forum, entitled “Transforming policy, changing lives,” was about moving from data to action. Wellbeing is now at the heart of understanding progress and the question now seems to be, how can we develop programs and policies to improve wellbeing and ensure that it is shared equally by all.

The global economic recession, improved data availability and emerging technologies have provided the evidence needed to move forward in our efforts toward shared wellbeing. Joseph Stieglitz, Nobel laureate in economics, presented on the promise of shared prosperity, noting that our continued focus on growth is not enough and that the belief that everyone will benefit from growth, even if it is distributed unequally, is wrong. That is not to say that everything we know about development of financial markets is wrong.  We also have the data to show that more equal societies fare better in the long run.  While many societies share the same market structures, those with policies aimed at shared prosperity and protections have seen economic gains without increased inequity. Its time to rethink our policies. Stieglitz remarked that security and trust are essential to wellbeing and growth, and that new social protections need to be assessed by who is being protected and how.

Last week also saw the Nobel Prize awarded to Angus Deaton an economist who has worked on poverty, equity and wellbeing. While he was unable to attend the conference, his work was ever present. A humanist at heart, Deaton was one of the first to argue that malnutrition was not only an effect but also a cause of poverty. Many speakers argued that we can no longer talk about successful economies or communities when people in those regions go without food or housing. So much of our work and funding at the community level is dedicated to improving outcomes, and many recent studies have had to make the economic case.  But equity isn’t just about disrupting strains on systems, it is about recognizing the social and emotional capacity of every individual in our community and providing them with the opportunity to fulfill that capacity.

Mario Pezzini, Director of the Development Center at the OECD noted that, “liquidity [investment] that has no eyes is dangerous.” Investment without eyes and a heart can lead us to places with short-term gains but long-term losses.  Today we have the power to make decisions based on evidence and the opportunity to empower communities with data needed to take action and improve their own wellbeing.

Our metrics affect not only what we do but what we see.  We have to start measuring wellbeing along side costs and improve our measures and understanding of risk and resiliency; to recognize and measure not only current variables but future ones. Better metrics inform better policies.  As evaluators, funders and consumers we expect data to be immediate.   We are used to seeing real time data and making instant course corrections.  Enrico Giovannini, Italian economist and statistician, presented what he sees as the current challenge in progress. He argued that while economic data is available in real-time, social indicators  often take two or three years to collect.  Our focus on these instant reads has prevented us from seeing the bigger picture and social indicators are needed to rebalance public discourse.

ASR, with participation from other notable experts including Toby Ewing, Geoff Woolcock and John Hall, led a session titled "Investing in Wellbeing: A Focus on Mental Health and Community Development". The session focused on the premise that social and emotional strength leads to community development, is measurable, promotes wellbeing for all and creates economic growth. 

So where do we begin? The good news is that we have already started.  These brilliant minds agreed that housing, education, mental health, youth employment and equity of opportunity are some of the most pressing issues we face today.  Here at ASR we have had the opportunity to witness incredible examples of communities addressing these issues locally. Whether it is Sonoma County using data to determine funding allocation and develop programs for homeless youth, Santa Cruz County using juvenile justice data to inform policy and provide second chances for youth, or Santa Clara County taking on the My Brothers Keeper Challenge to address disparities among boys and men of color, our partners are transforming policy and changing lives.

Of course, there is still more to do. It’s time to develop programs and policies focused on long-term gains rather than short-term outcomes. We have to focus on broader measures of wellbeing. This means that we also have to fund, plan and evaluate for these types of returns. Community level work has the potential to innovate and provide evidence for a new way of thinking about growth and development.  We have the opportunity to start looking at how programs and policies affect all domains of wellbeing and whether or no they impact different populations equally. Programs and communities are making progress but we can do more. We can develop better measures, learn from our data and grow what works.  It is time to raise our sights, look beyond our task today and plan for tomorrow.   

Poverty to Prosperity: Our Work with Rise Together and Their Commitment to the Idea of Data to Action

Poverty to Prosperity: Our Work with Rise Together and Their Commitment to the Idea of Data to Action

Last year, our partners at Rise Together of the Bay Area (RT) came to us wanting more information on the best poverty reducing practices. With our extensive background in homelessness work and poverty research, we jumped on the opportunity to take a closer look at poverty reduction strategies. It’s no secret that poverty in the Bay Area, especially in the heart of Silicon Valley, has made national headlines, and yet even with all of this national press, there still seems to be a problem in getting organizations to come together and effectively address this issue in the Bay Area. Rise Together’s goal is very clear:  cut poverty in half by 2020 using a collective impact model and evidence based strategies.

On June 8th, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development released their report for RT which highlights the depth and breadth of poverty in the Bay Area as well as a literature review written by our team here at ASR looking at sound, research based strategies to cut poverty. The review was organized around RT’s 3 key drivers of success: basic needs, education, and jobs/economy. Within each focus area, the review begins more broadly with policy strategies (both federally and on a smaller scale such as school district policies) and then addresses program strategies. We paid particular attention to the 5 primary groups identified by RT: female heads of households, families with young children, men and boys of color, immigrants, and seniors. The literature review was designed to inform RT partners of promising practices to reduce poverty that align with RT’s economic mobility change approach and a 3-6 year timeline, as well as to identify critical information for decisions related to strategy adoption, modification, and implementation in the Bay Area, given individual community characteristics, needs, and assets. The review was a success and helped to inform the topics of RT’s “Poverty to Prosperity: Power of 9” conference.

Two ASR staff members had the pleasure of attending this conference and reported back that it was “empowering to see so many individuals and organizations unite together with a dedicated passion and commitment to fight poverty in the Bay Area.” The conference brought together many individuals and organizations to partake in a conversation about sustainable and impactful solutions to reducing poverty. Speakers included john a. powell, Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton, Dr. David Grusky, Dr. Gabriela Sandoval, and Jahmese Myres and there were breakout sessions focused on three key topic areas: basic needs, education, and jobs. Overall, the day was a success and an important reminder of how poverty can only be tackled through connected, informed, and energized coalitions across our community. We have the data about poverty, opportunity, and economic mobility; now it’s time to take action!

If you would like any more information, please contact Emmeline Taylor at or Riana Shaw Robinson, Interim Executive Director at Rise Together at:

w 415.808.4456 / c 510.691.9600 /
550 Kearny St., Ste. 1000, San Francisco CA 94108




Sonoma County Addresses Homelessness

On August 25th, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors began the first steps to create affordable housing for up to 2,000 people throughout the county. This new effort was based, in part, around the release of their biennial Homeless Census and Survey conducted by ASR. The Census, which took place on January 23rd, found 3,107 individuals experiencing homelessness in Sonoma County, down 27% from 2013. Sonoma County is adopting the “housing first” approach of combating homelessness, focusing on finding housing for individuals experiencing homelessness before matching them with the services they need. It builds upon homeless data suggesting that the cost of providing housing for  homeless individuals is less than the cost of addressing side effects of homelessness, including emergency room usage and legal costs. The “housing first” approach has already had successes in local areas, including Santa Cruz, thanks to the local Project 180/2020, and is an exciting method of addressing homelessness.

In addition to Sonoma County, ASR also conducted a Census and Survey for San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Marin, and Solano counties. These counties are in the process of evaluating their data and taking appropriate steps to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, homelessness. If you would like to view Sonoma County's report click here, or please visit ASR’s website to view the reports of all counties.

Stay tuned to future ASR Newsletters for an article featuring the combined survey data from all 9 counties. ASR conducted thousands of surveys of homeless individuals in these counties and the data they contain is vital to understanding the issue of homelessness.

If you have questions about the Sonoma Homeless Census and Survey, or any other homeless projects, please contact Peter Connery at or 831-728-1356. 

ASR and the Youth Violence Prevention Task Force

Recently the Criminal Justice Council (CJC) of Santa Cruz County officially adopted the Youth Violence Prevention Task Force’s (YVPT) report on the ongoing issue of youth violence in Santa Cruz County. Created in 2012 by the CJC, the YVPT brought ASR, the United Way of Santa Cruz County and Santa Cruz County Probation together to define the scope of the problem and to create a roadmap of towards a community where its youth are free to successfully transition into adulthood in a safe and empowered manner.

The next few weeks will be an exciting time for the YVPT. The final report will be ready for dissemination and will outline the extent of youth and gang violence in Santa Cruz County as well as potential solutions. The report will advocate a multi-spectrum approach and will lay out recommendations for reducing and eliminating youth violence at the neighborhood and community level. Stay tuned to hear about the strategic plan and its recommendations for Santa Cruz County.  


Martine Watkins Joins ASR

An Exciting New Addition to ASR!

ASR is extremely proud to announce a new addition to the team. Martine Watkins is joining ASR as our Action Research Coordinator. Many of our partners have asked for help in translating data into action and Martine is just a part of ASR's commitment to helping our partners reach that goal. Martine is joining ASR to help us meet the needs of our partners by assisting them with moving the data to action. 

Martine comes to us from the Santa Cruz County Office of Education where she has worked for over 10 years in a variety of roles, most recently as a Senior Community Organizer for the Student Support Services Department.  Martine directly oversaw several of the department’s programs, acted as the SCCOE Educational Services community liaison through her participation and leadership of multiple collaborative partnerships, and supported the Manager of Student Support Services with community outreach efforts, project and staff management, meeting facilitation, department planning and oversight, grant writing, trainings, amongst other departmental needs.   

In January 2014, Martine joined Santa Cruz County College Commitment (S4C) as the Regional Director of the Linked Learning pilot initiative.  She was responsible for overseeing the implementation of the initiative countywide.  Martine worked with prominent education entities throughout the county, along with community and workforce development partners, to begin building school site career pathways in Santa Cruz County schools. Martine’s experience has allowed her to work with partners to create opportunities for data to be interpreted and used to inform school and community interventions.

Martine received her B.A. in Legal Students at UCSC, and her Master’s in Public Policy from the Panetta Institute of Public Policy.  Martine's education and experience has equipped her with the skills to creatively approach and deal with problems, to communicate clearly both orally and in writing, and bring out the voices of the collective to maximize further change and benefits. 

A Note from Susan

We at ASR have the wonderful opportunity to work with fabulous partners - those who are committed, caring, and who make meaningful contributions to wellbeing for all.  In so many instances we work together so intensely that we may not appreciate how well we work together and how much we accomplish when we work together.  (By the way - I can't help myself to remark that of course we can measure and value all of these group accomplishments) I am commenting here not about measurement;  rather about celebrating the fantastic work our partners do to enhance quality of life in their communities. Results are only one aspect of what it takes to achieve a culture of accountability to achieve wellbeing for all. I want to take this opportunity to celebrate, acknowledge and express appreciation for what you do with your partners. I would also ask you, too, to express appreciation and gratitude for the small acts of support we experience  every single day. Thank you so much for what you do and the impacts you have.

The Homeless Census and Survey of 2015

Applied Survey Research is currently in the data collection, analysis and reporting phase for the 2015 biennial Homeless Census and Survey effort. ASR has partnered with 9 counties throughout California to produce demographic profiles and basic assessments of homeless persons living in each county, as well as population estimates of certain subpopulations and detailed information regarding their personal experiences facing homelessness. In 2015, ASR partnered with Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Sonoma, Marin, and Solano counties. This marks the first time we’ve partnered with Marin and Solano counties on their homeless census and survey, while it’s the ninth time that ASR has partnered with Santa Cruz County. It’s been an exciting time as ASR continues partnerships with familiar counties, while establishing new relationships as well.

The Homeless Census and Survey is based on a requirement of  the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that all counties (typically called a Continuum of Care) applying for  homeless funding from the federal government should conduct a count of all homeless persons living in their county. It takes place during odd-numbered years across the country during the last 10 days of January. ASR’s method for counting has been recognized by HUD as a best practices model and employs a strategy where a volunteer from the community is teamed up with an individual currently experiencing homelessness. It is our experience that placing a homeless, paid guide with the volunteer brings first-hand knowledge and expertise to the team, allowing them to better recognize homeless individuals and to better locate homeless individuals. During the census efforts in virtually all the counties, we consistently heard from volunteers that the presence of the guide allowed them to identify homeless individuals that they would never have identified on their own. We even heard this from outreach worker staff whose job is to interface with the homeless on a daily basis.

Once the count is completed, ASR follows up with a detailed survey in order to get more in depth information on the experience and circumstances of homeless individuals in each county. The survey includes questions about their regular nighttime accommodations, where they were located before becoming homeless, what kinds of services they use, and many other questions designed to increase the understanding of homelessness in that particular county. Just like the count, ASR uses paid homeless individuals to conduct surveys. Respondents receive a gift for taking the survey and the interviewer is compensated for their effort as well. Homeless guide participation in the census and survey provides temporary employment but also has been great for their self-esteem and engagement.

The Homeless Census and Survey of 2015 has been a great experience so far and, as the survey portion is wrapping up, we look forward to analyzing all the excellent data we’ve received.  While HUD can be quite strict in both homeless census methodology and data reporting requirements, there is room for community oriented questions and local outreach that is difficult to achieve through other sources. ASR hopes the data will inform and engage the community in developing local strategies that address the unique profiles that emerge. While there are many “best practice” solutions we can learn from, the best responses are those that address the unique characteristics and resources in our community. Data from the counts and the survey will be available to the public around late May or early June. It is our hope that our partner counties will be able to turn the information in these reports into positive change for the homeless individuals in their county.

A special thanks to any and all who participated in the counts throughout the Bay Area. We couldn’t have done it without you. 

If you have any questions about ASR’s homeless projects, please contact Peter Connery at 831-728-1356 or

Exciting Opportunity to Benefit Youth

ASR would like to share the opportunity to attend an event aimed at helping children mitigate the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences as well as introduce new methods to help youth. There will be two days of events, the first on Friday December 12th and the second on Saturday December 13th. If you'd like to attend, visit their website here. This is an exciting opportunity and Derek Peterson is a great speaker and facilitator and we hope to see you there!

CAP Community Heroes

At the 2014 Santa Cruz County Community Assessment Project release, heroes from the community were recognized for their contributions to Santa Cruz County. For their continued work with individuals experiencing homelessness, the United Way honored Project Homeless Connect (PHC) and its Steering Committee for their continued work to connect individuals experiencing homelessness with service providers to access to a wide variety of services. Since 2010, PHC has served thousands of individuals and in 2014, for the first time ever, expanded the annual project to a second event in Watsonville.

ASR was particularly excited to see the successes of Project Homeless Connect recognized, as our own Peter Connery is on the Steering Committee. We applaud Peter and the Steering Committee for their tireless efforts to help individuals experiencing homelessness.

To learn more about PHC, visit their website at

Community Assessment Project 2014

On Monday, ASR celebrated the Santa Cruz County release of its 20th annual Community Assessment Project (CAP) at Cabrillo College. Speakers, including Craig Haney and Gary Griggs from UCSC and MariaElena De La Garze of the Community Action Board, presented findings from the various sections of the comprehensive CAP report. Following the presentation, community heroes were recognized with certificates from Congress, the State Legislature and the County Board of Supervisors. The Santa Crurz County CAP is the 2nd longest running community assessment project in the nation and provides an unparalleled look at the status and history of Santa Cruz.

Some of the findings from this year’s CAP include:

  • Median sale price of homes increased to $535,000 in 2014
  • Unemployment has been decreased over the last 3 years and was 6.8% as of June 2014
  • 72% of Latino survey respondents reported being obese, compared to 58% of white respondents
  • The crime rate decreased from 39.7 per 1,000 residents in 2007 to 34.3 in 2014
  • The number of certified organic farmers has increased by 61% since 2006.

If you’d like to view the comprehensive report, visit our website at

Data to Action, Part 4

What is the Impact of the Great Recession on Children? 

It's big! The Great Recession that began in 2008 and the following aftermath are having an extraordinary impact on America’s children, an impact comparable to that of the Great Depression on the children who grew up during the 1930s. The cohort of children who were born in 2008-2009 is the first to have lived their entire short lives under this economic shadow. 

Recent research shows that the economic climate has taken, and continues to take, a measurable toll on these children and their families. In fact, some research indicates that parents don't need to be experiencing actual economic hardship to be stressed and anxious about the economic climate. Then these anxious parents pass the stress along to their children, who then exhibit higher behavioral problems and lower achievement.  

When ASR conducted school readiness assessments of kindergarteners in one affluent California County in 2013, we saw lower scores in self-regulation (things like controlling impulses, following directions, negotiating solutions, playing cooperatively, handling frustration), than we had in prior years. We then looked into research around the country about children whose parents were experiencing a direct economic hit and children with parents who were just anxious about the economy. Even among children whose parents were just worried about the economy, there was higher child anxiety, more trouble getting along with others, and children were more withdrawn.  

Check out more of the research from this link

How are children in your community doing? For more information, or to conduct a school readiness assessment, please contact Jennifer Van Stelle

Data to Action, Part 3

Marin County is Putting Data to Action for Low Income and Diverse Students


How does one community work together to close the achievement gap of low-income students and students of color?

Data based community conversations.

Preschools, after school programs, school sites, and community partners in Marin County are all working together in nine elementary schools on a five year initiative called Pre K to 3: Promoting Early School Success. The goal is to make sure children have:

  • A high quality culturally competent early education
  • Excellent teachers
  • Strong engagement from family members.

ASR is tracking the success of the initiative by conducting school readiness assessments of incoming kindergarteners for three years in a row. We conduct these assessments because we know that children who have early learning skills when they enter kindergarten are more likely to graduate with a high school diploma, are more successful in their careers, and are less likely to be involved in crime and drugs.[1] That’s why ASR has assessed over 50,000 children for their readiness for kindergarten over the last decade.

This year, ASR used the data from the assessments to:

  1. Facilitate discussions with elementary school principals, kindergarten teachers, preschool directors, afterschool program staff, CBO partners, and parents to brainstorm new ideas.
  2. At one site, where children’s self-regulation was of concern, preschool staff and kindergarten teachers agreed to a “shadowing” arrangement to better understand their respective classrooms and to improve the “hand-off” from preschool to kindergarten. 
  3. At another site, participants discussed how to increase the preschool slots so that more children would have a high quality preschool experience. 

In other communities, ASR has used the assessment data…

  • To guide how teachers work with their new kindergarten students.
  • To support parents in helping their children develop the skills they need to be ready for school.
  • To help school districts and preschool programs to strengthen their programming.

The Pre K to 3 Initiative is funded by the Marin Community Foundation and the Haas Fund. For more information, please contact Jen Van Stelle at 408-247-8319.


[1] Rolnick, A., & Grunewald, R.  (2003). Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return. Big Ideas for Children. First Focus, Washington, DC.

Data to Action, Part 2

Last week we introduced the first part in an ongoing series highlighting communities who successfully translated data to action. Now we continue the series with two stories, one a First 5 Commission working on behalf of children ages 0-5 and a second on County Drug and Alcohol Department.

How Does First 5 Benefit from a Community Assessment Project?


According to Vicki Boriak, Program Officer for First 5 Santa Cruz County, they use the Santa Cruz County Community Assessment Project to:

  1. Look at the strengths and the gaps in well-being for children ages 0-5 and then create a strategic plan in light of those factors.
  2. Guide First 5’s own program priorities.
  3. Guide how First 5 makes grants to partner agencies.
  4. Track how well their funded programs are doing.
  5. Apply for and receive foundation grants, especially in the area of providing and improving child care for infants and toddlers.
  6. Write articles about children’s health and well-being.


You can access the Santa Cruz County Community Assessment, now in its 20th year on ASR’s website. The 20th edition of the report will be released in November, so stay tuned! To be in contact with First 5 Santa Cruz County, please click here.


Santa Cruz County Alcohol and Drug Services Department Uses Community Assessment Data to Turn the Curve on Substance Abuse and Change their Strategies


“Adding one more bar or one more liquor store on a block, increases the chances of violence on that block,” according to Brenda Armstrong, Prevention Program Manager at Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (HSA). Ms. Armstrong is citing data from a study in Cleveland that found that adding one bar to a block would result in 3.38 more crimes committed on that block in a year.[1]

Ms. Armstrong is drawing on extensive research showing that people who have more access to liquor stores and bars are more likely to consume higher levels of alcohol, resulting in more violent crimes, such as murder, rape, and assault in addition to child maltreatment and child abuse.[2]


The increase in violent crime due to alcohol outlets is one reason why the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, Alcohol and Drug Program is tracking the number of alcohol outlets in a region, through the Santa Cruz County Community Assessment Project (CAP). The CAP also tracks the community perceptions about providing alcohol to underage youth, community acceptance of marijuana use, the use of prescription drugs, binge drinking, crime, and substance use by students and adults. County staff have analyzed the CAP data over time, and seen that some initial interventions to reduce youth drug and alcohol use worked very well, but after several years of focusing instead on community education about underage use, the numbers started to flatten or get worse again. This caused the department to change their strategies.


Instead of maintaining a primary focus on community education, staff of the Alcohol and Drug Services Department of Santa Cruz County applied for and received a federal grant to track crime and its connections with alcohol outlets in the city of Watsonville, and to conduct focus groups in neighborhoods to see how individuals and families are experiencing those issues. The County is pursuing solutions such as Conditioned Use Permits, where limits are placed around new alcohol licenses, hours of operations, training, and not selling alcohol pops or 40 ounce malt liquor. The Department is also considering a “Deemed Approve Ordinance” where new conditions may be placed on an outlet that already has an alcohol license but has violated their license. For more information, please contact Brenda Armstrong at


[1] U.S. Department of Justice, 2006. Alcohol and Violent Crime, What is the Connection? What Can Be Done? Retrieved at


[2] Pereira, G., Wood, L., Foster, S., & Haggar, F. (2013). Access to alcohol outlets, alcohol consumption and mental health. PLoS ONE 8(1): e53461. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053461; and Gruenewald et al. (1995). Ecological models of alcohol outlets and violent assaults: crime potentials and geospatial analysis. Society for the Study of Addiction, 2006.

Moving Data to Action

Data to Action Series: Part 1 

ASR Helping Partners to Move from Data to Action

ASR’s mission is to help partners build better communities. Our partners have asked us for more help with how to move from data to action. This e-news focuses on how some of our partners have taken Community Assessment data and made changes in their communities. ASR believes that to move from data to action, you need:

  1.        Good quality reliable data
  2.        Strong leadership
  3.        A focus on results
  4.        A sustainability plan
  5.        Align program efforts with community efforts

The 5 Steps of ASR’s Community Assessment Model

ASR has designed a 5 step process to conduct our Community Assessments, Needs Assessments, and Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA). Check out the visual below and follow along when your community !


What are 8 Things You Can Do with Your Community Assessment Project Data?


San Luis Obispo County has used their Community Assessment data which is known as Community Vital Signs: Understanding San Luis Obispo County to:


  1. Create more after school programs for children.
  2. Create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to provide loans to build more affordable housing units.
  3. Support funding for a low cost dental clinic.
  4. Support case management for individuals who were previously homeless and are now housed.
  5. Create a day-long conference about seniors which led to the creation of “Good Neighbors”-a program to match volunteers with seniors to help combat isolation and help seniors accomplish some necessary daily tasks.
  6. Launch town halls about how much alcohol youth were drinking as compared to parental perception of their drinking—a big disconnect. These conversations led to action, and now alcohol use is down for youth.
  7. Set grant making and program priorities for the Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County, as well as many agencies, and non-profit organizations.
  8. Add new questions to the community assessment telephone survey to know how residents are using parks, recreation, walking and biking trails in order to improve the built environment. 


The community assessment project is overseen by ACTION for Healthy Communities, a collaborative of individual agencies and public and private organizations committed to improving the overall quality of life in San Luis Obispo County. For the last 15 years, ASR has collected the data for the reports. Please visit the website to access the reports at: contact Abbie Stevens at ASR: 831-728-1356 or

ASR Publishes in a New Quality of Life Encyclopedia

ASR’s Susan Brutschy and Deanna Zachary were invited by Professor Alex Michalos to write three articles that are now published by Springer in the Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research. The three articles are about quality of life in different realms:

  •          How to measure quality of life in marginalized communities with the participation of citizens/residents
  •          How to develop quality of life measures
  •          The award winning Santa Cruz County Community Assessment Project, now in its 19th year.


The Encyclopedia will be included in many international libraries and/or articles can be purchased individually. For more information, please visit here.