June 24, 2024

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St. Albertans say primary and mental health care are top social issues: survey

4 min read

Child abuse, community safety, aging in place, domestic violence also prominent concerns for survey respondents

A recent survey to assess community perceptions of social needs and service shortfalls found primary and mental health care are the top two social issues St. Albert residents think need to be addressed in the years to come.

The survey, conducted in April, received 1,547 responses as part of the city’s ongoing Social Needs Assessment project. The project is a follow-up to the city’s 2013 social needs assessment, which culminated in the Social Master Plan.

According to a What We Heard report published on the city’s Cultivate the Conversation platform last month, child abuse, community safety, aging in place, and domestic violence were other popular answers for social issues needing to be addressed, as selected by survey respondents.

Newcomer services; adult education; engagement; public transit; and diversity, equity, and inclusion were among the social issues ranked the lowest on average by survey respondents.

On a demographic level, survey respondents over the age of 60 — who represented 51 per cent of all respondents — selected aging in place as the most important social issue, while visible minorities and those with disabilities selected primary health care as the most important.

The survey also featured a housing-specific question, and asked residents to rank housing issues from most to least important.

The report states housing with supportive services was ranked as the most important housing issue, followed by rental housing, home ownership, housing insecurity, and emergency housing. 

“Housing to own was ranked as a more important issue by those [39 or younger] than those [65 or older], who were more likely to identify housing with supportive services as most important, along with those identifying as having a disability,” the report reads.

A list of written responses to the housing-needs question was also included in the report, such as one respondent saying there isn’t enough local housing “geared” towards income, multiple comments about property tax increases and the negative impacts as a result, and a comment about the need for more two-bedroom seniors housing suites, so couples aren’t separated.

Another survey question asked residents whether or not they, or a family member, has needed to leave St. Albert to access a social service or program, and while nearly a third of respondents said yes, just 22 per cent of respondents later said they felt there are social programs and supports missing in St. Albert.

Some written answers for what services residents think are missing include a women’s shelter and emergency housing for those fleeing domestic violence; supports for refugees and immigrants; and support systems for and operated by Indigenous and Métis residents.

About 14 per cent of survey respondents reported they or their family members have encountered barriers when trying to access local services and programs, while 37 per cent said the question wasn’t applicable and 49 per cent said no.

Of those who reported experiencing or knowing someone who faced barriers to accessing supports, the most common barrier reported was that the program or service they tried to access was oversubscribed or full, while others said they were unable to get appointments for services, or were unable to afford certain programming.

Is St. Albert a welcoming community?

According to the report, which notes that 84 per cent of survey respondents said they were white, nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of respondents said they thought St. Albert is a “welcoming, inclusive community that values diversity,” while 23 per cent said they were unsure, and 12 per cent said no.

“Respondents that indicated they were a member of a visible minority, have a disability, or are a member of the 2SLGBTQIAP+ community were more likely to select ‘no,’” the report states.

The report also includes a list of written answers submitted by those who said they didn’t think St. Albert was a “welcoming, inclusive community that values diversity,” and some comments include: “as a trans-person, I feel unsafe in most places in St. Albert”; “every school I’ve been to here I’ve been brutally bullied”; “I’m a person of colour and I don’t always feel included or valued”; and “there is little to no understanding of the original treaties of these lands and the spirit and intent of them.”

When it comes to what survey respondents felt were St. Albert’s strengths, nearly 900 people said safe neighbourhoods were the city’s most redeeming feature. Other top answers included residents thinking St. Albert is a walkable community with many cultural and recreational opportunities.

The aspects of St. Albert chosen the least for the strengths category include affordability, housing, civic involvement, equity, and timely access to supports.

With the majority of public engagement for the city’s social needs assessment now complete, the report says the next step in the project is to consult with local service providers and social agencies, after which the city will develop a “community social plan,” similar to the 2013 Social Master Plan.


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