Numbers in Need


New website builds upon highly used community reports

In response to the Great Recession that left tens of thousands of residents across the region unemployed and in need, UBRI partnered with the Mobile Safety-Net Team between 2012 and 2014 to produce community reports. These reports were designed to give communities a tool they could use to strengthen the ecosystem of human services for economically vulnerable individuals and families. The research gathered insights from residents, service providers and community leaders. Community reports were used by service providers and leaders for strategic planning, decision making, fund development, and collaborative action. These reports helped to raise over $14 million for communities in our region.

Commissioned by The John R. Oishei Foundation in 2019, Numbers in Need updates these community reports and puts them online with new findings and a deeper look into the needs of residents and service providers in the region. The work focuses on 12 representative communities across Erie and Niagara counties. This work continues to be important because nearly 338,000 individuals live in or near poverty in Buffalo Niagara, despite the region’s economic resurgence, which has spurred business creation, added jobs, and generated economic opportunity for many, but not all, as need across the region persists.

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An updated, interactive resource grounded in research, data and insights from the community

Numbers in Needs 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 communities in Erie and Niagara Counties. Data findings are supplemented with input and perspectives from residents, services 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.

In addition to community reports, available through a new website, Numbers in Need features a regional picture offering a benchmark for the 12 communities, strategies and models to consider for strengthening communities, and an interactive tool showing where service providers are located relative to measures of need.



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