Tears are a distinct possibility.

Tears are a distinct possibility.

In advising participants in last week's fifth Northland Nonprofit Summit about a survey in the Beaumont neighborhood, Tamar Mott Forrest warned that asking probing questions of people coping with urban problems can be an emotional experience for both the interviewer and the subject.

Forrest, an assessment coordinator with the Schoenbaum Family Center at the College of Education and Human Ecology, Human Development and Family Science at Ohio State University, was the featured speaker at the meeting convened under the auspices of the Northland Alliance.

"This group is built on collaboration," said Rich Bourgault, vice president of the Dublin Management Group, who has served as facilitator for the five summits held so far.

"Your biggest charge when you leave this group is to find something to do together, because that's the only way we grow," urged his wife, Joyce Bourgault, chairwoman of the Northland Alliance and executive director of the Helping Hands Health and Wellness Center free clinic.

Recent Nonprofit Summit sessions have focused on dealing with problems in the Beaumont area south and east of the former Northland Mall site, as well as on an annual Northland International Festival this summer (see related story).

The Beaumont Civic Association, with the assistance of nonprofit participants, has been revived.

The next step in the process of devising ways to improve the exceptionally diverse neighborhood of about 5,000 residents is to conduct a survey this summer. A $5,000 grant from the United Way of Central Ohio to the Northland Alliance is funding the survey.

And that's where OSU's Tamar Mott Forrest comes in.

She helped devise a very similar survey conducted in the troubled Weinland Park neighborhood south of the university's main campus that's helping guide the efforts of an even larger collaboration aimed at urban revitalization of the area.

The point of asking residents what they see as their neighborhood's problems and needs, Forrest said, is to devise a "bottom-up" approach to finding solutions to those issues.

"I want you guys to think how Beaumont is similar to Weinland Park … and how is it different," Forrest advised.

Weinland Park, once an elite neighborhood and home to professors at Ohio State, suffered a 50-percent population drop from 1970 to 2010, she said.

Of the 950 families residing there, half have female heads of household. Home ownership is only 8 percent and 19 percent of dwelling units are vacant. Compared with the rest of Columbus, Weinland Park residents are more likely to be unemployed, to be living in poverty and to be receiving public assistance.

They are, according to Forrest, an "underserved and vulnerable population."

For the Weinland Park survey, student volunteers, often paired with neighborhood residents, went to every third household, on three separate occasions if necessary, stopping on different days of the week and at different times of the day, before moving on if no response was elicited, Forrest said.

Those who agreed to be questioned were given $20 gift cards to Kroger.

Forrest said one thing that stood out was that being asked about the woes besetting their neighborhood sometimes led survey participants to cry.

"Obviously, you're asking very challenging questions," she said. "You really have to be sensitive to what you're doing.

Following her presentation, Joyce Bourgault said summit participants discussed ways to get a broader representation of the Northland area involved in the Beaumont resurrection process, particularly from the business community.

"We need to get more support from those key players," she said.

The sixth Northland Nonprofit Summit is scheduled for June 6.