Community needs identified for low-income families

The number of Treasure Valley children living in poverty is on the rise.

Non-profit heads and community leaders met in Nampa Thursday morning to brainstorm solutions based on needs identified in the United Way of Treasure Valley's 2017 Community Assessment.

The number of homeless students was a theme found during this year's assessment, according to Nora Carpenter who is the president and CEO of United Way of Treasure Valley. By the school's year end, 4,000 students in Ada, Canyon and Gem counties will fit the description with the bulk of them living in Nampa.

Other major themes identified in the 2017 Community Assessment include a lack of livable wages, affordable housing and other issues that underlyingly have to do with transportation.

"Mental and behavioral health needs really rises to the top in 2017," Carpenter says.

"It's very difficult for parents to find affordable counseling. They have to leave work, they have to pick up their child from school. The child misses school and usually doesn't come back and the parent misses out on wages," says Rosie Reilly, one of the founders of Terry Reilly Health Services. "So, it's kind of a vicious cycle."

Reilly is hopeful a pilot project at Lewis and Clark Elementary in Caldwell will take off one day. A former school counselor, herself, she knows there's not enough time in the day to address students' and families' long-term needs. Currently, a Terry Reilly Health Services counselor has been able to fill that need at the elementary school.

Another theme emerged from Thursday's gathering.

"People don't realize the little things that count, and they see the big picture but if you break it up... there are things people can do," Reilly says.

"All it takes is all of us thinking about the resources we have to share, our skills, our knowledge," Carpenter adds. "If we work together, there's some very big opportunities to get great wins fast in this community."

A list of all the volunteer opportunities in the valley can be found by visiting http://volunteerunited.org.

To view the report in its entirety head to http://unitedwaytv.org.

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