Assessment of Framingham Portuguese Speakers Indicates a Greater Need for Culturally Appropriate Social Services

framingham_1The Portuguese-speaking community in Framingham and surrounding areas need improved access to culturally and linguistically competent social services, with a special focus on health insurance enrollment, housing and job training, ESOL and domestic violence and sexual assault services. This is the main conclusion of the Framingham Community Needs Assessment Survey recently conducted by the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS).

The survey, answered by 174 Framingham-area community members, composed mostly of Brazilians, identified significant community needs. 84% of the respondents indicated health insurance enrollment assistance as an unmet need, followed by affordable housing and job training (75% each), ESOL (English as a Second Language, 69%) and domestic violence and sexual assault services (67%).

The respondents indicated a range of significant barriers to accessing social services, with the most cited example being not being able to afford fees (43%), lack of Portuguese-speaking staff or interpreters (42%), lack of written Portuguese materials (38%), long waits for services (37%) and lack of childcare when receiving services (36%).

Other key barriers included a lack of services in their area (34%), having to go to different organizations for different services (34%), lack of evening or weekend services (32%), lack of transportation (31%) and immigration concerns (30%). Nearly half of respondents reported yearly household incomes under $40,000, with 33% under $20,000.

“The findings of this survey have made it clear that there is much work to be done in the Framingham area,” said Paulo Pinto, MPA, MAPS Executive Director. “There is a profound need among the community for more culturally and linguistically competent services that are free or low-cost. We are excited to use the data gathered through this survey in order to evaluate and expand our current programs in Framingham.”

While most respondents perceived MAPS as a “highly welcoming, respectful and culturally-competent service provider for the community”, 22% stated that they did not know about MAPS and the many services the organization provides, highlighting the need for extra outreach and awareness-building efforts.

The MAPS Framingham Needs Assessment Survey was funded by the Middlesex Savings Charitable Foundation and developed in collaboration with Judy Freiwirth, Psy.D., of Nonprofit Solutions Associates. A final detailed report is available by clicking here.

MAPS has been assisting Portuguese-speaking immigrants and others with daily life needs and critical community issues since 1970. The health and social service provider operates six offices in Cambridge, Somerville, Brighton, Dorchester, Framingham and Lowell. To learn more about MAPS, visit www.maps-inc.org.