Hispanics in Manassas, Manassas Park and Prince William County need affordable child care, food assistance and greater access to English classes, according to a study by the local United Way.
The 43-page "2005 Hispanic Needs Assessment Report" will be presented to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday.
The United Way often explores the needs of communities, and it focused on the county's Hispanics after recognizing the booming population about two years ago, said Anthony Owens, director of marketing and communications for the United Way of the National Capital Area.
Data released by the county show that Hispanics continue to be the area's fastest-growing population. Hispanics make up nearly 16 percent of the county's population and will rise to more than 21 percent by 2010, according to county estimates.
The United Way issued the report about six months ago and has circulated it among other social service agencies and the jurisdictions, Owens said.
Sean T. Connaughton (R), chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, said he thought it was important for the county government to get a presentation and discuss the report in detail. "We're trying to get a better handle as to what challenges we're facing in the delivery of various services to what is now one of the fastest-growing segments of our population," he said.
The report shows that Manassas and Manassas Park also have Hispanic populations of more than 14.5 percent.
Manassas Park government officials dissected the report at a meeting last week and are working to address the needs outlined, Owens said.
Hank Azais, who was on the committee that wrote the report, said the Manassas Park meeting included a panel discussion and small group talks. "It's obvious that the Hispanic community is growing. They are starting to realize, yes, we have to do something," Azais said. "Education, health and life skills were the three topics most discussed that night. Education is the most important.
"I'm talking about the education of the Hispanic community, like how to file taxes and how to live in this country," he said. "That also includes the education of the non-Hispanic population, like knowing their new neighbors."
The study was based on a survey of 359 men and women who identified themselves as Hispanic and living in Prince William, according to the report.
Survey questions focused on social issues such as health, child care, mental health, disabilities, substance abuse and domestic violence and basic needs such as food and transportation.
The report includes recommendations to address needs, such as adding Spanish-speaking staff members for mental health services, holding child-care licensing classes in Spanish and targeting Hispanic men and women in domestic violence campaigns.
About 83 percent of those surveyed said they receive food stamps, and nearly 10 percent said they had been without food. About 38 percent said they "occasionally run out of money for basic needs."
More than 32 percent of those surveyed said that more frequent service by OmniLink buses is a "somewhat or very important need." Routes to Innovation, the county business park, and throughout Manassas topped the wanted routes, according to the report.
In the area of mental health, the United Way found that the Community Services Board, the county agency that handles mental health, does not have Spanish-speaking therapists for those services and that children, often used as translators, should not be used for that purpose.
The Community Services Board also provides prevention and treatment services for substance abuse. Although the agency has one prevention specialist-therapist who is bilingual and has interpreters, about 75 percent of those surveyed said that someone in the family consumes too much alcohol and that there is a long waiting list for the substance abuse education group, according to the report.