Northland News

Beaumont survey results show many neighborhood contrasts

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The Beaumont neighborhood in the Northland area is a place of startling contrasts, according to the results of a survey unveiled last week at a gathering of nonprofit organizations.

On one hand, the area bounded by Karl Road, Cleveland Avenue, Morse Road and Ferris Road has an aging population, with an average age of 54; 38 percent of survey respondents were 60 or older.

On the other hand, the neighborhood is home to many young children, with 26 percent of respondents saying children lived with them; 58 percent of minors were age 2 or younger.

Although almost evenly split between owners and renters, the people who spoke with survey-takers either have deep roots in the area or don't plan to stick around much longer.

Those taking the survey had some common ground: They don't feel as if they have much of a voice in what goes on around them, and they don't want to be all that involved.

The survey grew out of a series of meetings for nonprofit organizations and agencies serving the Northland area. It was intended to allow residents to identify their social service and other needs, "from the bottom up, from the voice of the community," according to Tamar Mott Forrest, an academic affairs administrator at Ohio State University who also does consulting work on neighborhood revitalization.

The project was conducted under the auspices of Ohio State University, the Northland Alliance and the United Way of Central Ohio. The results were announced and discussed at last week's ninth Northland Nonprofit Summit.

"Overall, this is a very important tool," Forrest said.

Although based on a similar project conducted with a great deal more funding in the Weinland Park neighborhood, Forrest cautioned that the effort to take the pulse of Beaumont residents was far less rigorous, reaching out to only about 6 percent of households. This makes fewer generalizations possible, she added.

Of those surveyed, 53 percent were white, 21 percent African American, 17 percent Asian and 8 percent Latino, according to a synopsis. Some 26 percent reported they had been born in another country, including Bhutan, Nepal, Mexico, Cambodia, Thailand, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Zambia.

Surprisingly, not a single respondent was originally from Somalia, according to Forrest.

Anecdotal evidence, she added, indicates Somalis have moved on from the neighborhood, which is what a large majority of renters want to do.

Only 27 percent of renters said they would consider buying a home in the Northland area. That compares with 34 percent of people who already own homes, but Forrest said most of them likely plan to stay where they are.

"This is one that shocked me," Forrest said of the large aging population and the many children under 2.

Another telling statistic, she said, was in the area of "civic and volunteer engagement." In responding to questions on the subject, 82 percent "felt their voice didn't matter or mattered little in decisions affecting Northland," the summary stated. Fully 88 percent "reported not being involved in community organizations around new developments or neighborhood organizations," the document continued.

That's similar to responses from Weinland Park residents, Forrest said, but there, 70 percent said they would welcome the opportunity, compared with only 19 percent of folks in Beaumont.

"I think this is a very, very important statistic," Forrest said.

A troubling issue revealed through the survey was that only 58 percent of families with children reported reading to them.

"I think intervention is needed in this area," Forrest said.

The vast majority of respondents said they depended far more on friends and family for support than on government or social service agencies.

When summit participants discussed what to do with the survey results, they touched on a number of different issues.

"This survey seems to indicate that there's a tremendous gap in relationships," said the Rev. Gregory Herndon of Epworth United Methodist Church.

"We need to build some intergenerational relationships," said Fran Ryan of the Senior Services Roundtable.

Northland Alliance Chairwoman Joyce Bourgault said she was particularly struck by how much Beaumont residents count on the Northern Lights Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

Tony Howard, manager of that branch as well as the one on Karl Road, said Northern Lights is scheduled to undergo reconstruction in the next two or three years that will double its size.

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