Numbers in Need


New website builds upon highly used community reports

Numbers in Need was developed through a collaboration between the Mobile Safety-Net Team (MSNT) and UBRI. The MSNT is an initiative of The John R. Oishei Foundation, created by the Foundation after the 2008 economic downturn to strengthen the region’s safety net by assessing community-based human services, removing access barriers, and identifying areas of unmet need. UBRI supports the MSNT to cultivate community partnerships and facilitate data-informed actions focused on addressing regional poverty.

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Numbers in Need assesses poverty and factors that contribute to economic vulnerability such as access to higher-paying jobs, educational attainment, safe and affordable housing, transportation options, and the availability of services in 12 representative communities. These communities represent urban, suburban and rural areas in Erie and Niagara Counties. Data findings are supplemented with input and perspectives from residents, service providers and community leaders. UBRI, in partnership with the Mobile Safety-Net Team, engaged these individuals through surveys, focus group conversations and one-on-one interviews. To date, thousands of perspectives and experiences contribute to the findings contained in Numbers in Need.

The Numbers in Need Buffalo Niagara Regional Report summarizes findings from all 12 of the community reports and presents strategies, models, and considerations for the future, including the potential ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.



Past reports were updated with new research, insights and findings on the 12 communities

Numbers in Need builds off the work completed between 2012 and 2014 (Strengthening WNY’s Safety Net) with The John R. Oishei Foundation’s Mobile Safety-Net Team. During those years, twelve community reports were developed, the result of over two years of research and outreach with providers and residents in need. Those reports helped communities strengthen the safety-net of services for individuals living in or near poverty. In 2019, the work was updated, expanded and moved online to reach a much wider audience with interactive tools and resources.
Numbers in Need logo


Tracking factors that matter and measures of need across 12 communities and the region

It’s hard to manage what can’t be measured. Numbers In Need offers measures for poverty and related factors that matter. This data will be updated and assessed on a regular basis at the community and regional level. Tracking data this way offers a dynamic snapshot to identify levers such as affordable housing options, job training, and access to medical care that can help communities combat poverty.


Perspectives of Providers and Residents

Insights and perspectives from thousands of residents and service providers across 12 communities, gathered over 18 months into 2020, inform research findings and shed light on strategies that strengthen the landscape of human services, address residents’ most urgent concerns and remove barriers that keep families and individuals in poverty.

Information and insights from residents were gathered through a range of research methods, including a resident survey, small group conversations and one-on-one interviews. Service providers were engaged through an agency focus group in each community, one-one-one conversations and an agency questionnaire.

Outreach and Engagement Process


Understanding where providers are located relative to residents in need

The website’s Provider Tool offers interactive maps and lists of providers available in the community to meet resident needs for food, clothing, training, youth program, senior services and more.

The website allows visitors to refine and sort providers by community and type of service or program they offer. Visitors can choose from a variety of “data layers” to see where vulnerable populations are located. Using this feature,  providers can target outreach, find high-need, underserved neighborhoods, and identify potential agency partners.

Updating the Landscape of Providers
Detailed information on 1,000+ providers across the 12 communities was captured through an agency questionnaire. Not-for-profit and governmental service providers completed the questionnaire, available online, which collected information on agency location, programs and services, geographic scope and more. Updated regularly, providers can use this tool to understand what resources are available in their community, make referrals, collaborate, and guide decision making.


Rolling out findings to the 12 communities

With the launch of the Numbers In Need website in October 2019 and community reports completed for Buffalo and Niagara Falls, the research team returned to these communities to share research findings and unveil the new online tool. Roll-outs will continue through 2020 as research and reports for all 12 communities and the region are completed.

Want to see more? View all of our work