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Community Needs Assessment

The Community Needs Assessment will help the City of Tacoma prioritize funding for meeting human and social needs and provide common baseline information shared by the City and community service providers. Many of the greatest social and health challenges impacting community members today are the result of a complex set of factors that diminish health and well-being over time. These include historical patterns of income segregation and racial disparities. In order to help the City identify effective points of intervention and assess gaps in the current service system, the assessment attempts to identify causal factors that lead to the most urgent social and health challenges facing the community today. The assessment identifies community needs related to individual and community safety, education and economic opportunity, geographic and racial equity, and household stability. The broad range of topics investigated are organized into three primary topics:

  1. Homelessness and Household Stability
  2. Workforce Development
  3. Human and Social Wellness

Full Community Needs Assessment-August 2016


Community Needs Assessment

Summary of Findings

Section 1: Homelessness and Household Stability

Section 2: Workforce Development

Section 3: Human and Social Wellness

Appendix A: Needs Assessment Approach and Methods

Appendix B: Demographic Profile by Council District


The City of Tacoma's community-driven vision of Tacoma 2025 is focused on economic opportunity, education, and quality of life.  While the majority of Tacoma residents enjoy these benefits of living in Tacoma, many community members struggle with homelessness, hunger, under- and unemployment, limited educational opportunity, and poor life outcomes.


Tacoma is the third largest city in Washington and has a strong network of social and human service organizations that form a safety net to meet the needs of community members. Aside from the operation of its senior centers, the City is not a direct service provider. The City supports the social and human service network as an active funder, convener, and partner. The social and human service needs of Tacoma’s residents surpass the available services and resources.


The City has worked closely with its partners to create a Human Services Strategic Plan (HSSP) for 2015 through 2019 to improve the reach and effectiveness of existing service system. The City is also revising its funding process to proactively and efficiently fund strategies focused on resident needs. The revised funding approach aligns funding to the City’s vision articulated in Tacoma 2025, and uses a systems approach to improve the overall effectiveness of city funding.


Priority Community Needs

A particular individual may need different social and human service supports over the course of his or her life and many may have unmet needs for social and health services that compound over time. For example, mental health difficulties in adolescence can lead to disengagement in school, thus limiting educational opportunity. A lack of a high school diploma will reduce employability and diminish the opportunity to develop work-based skills and experiences. The diminished earning potential will compound over time, thus undermining economic security and potentially household stability in the long term. As a result, the individual in this example needs mental health care, job skills training, employment support, and housing assistance. Each of these needs are real, related, and critical to address. Understanding the interconnected nature of these factors, the Needs Assessment identified the following priority needs that undergird many of the social, economic, and health challenges facing the community today.


Childhood Poverty

  • One in four children in Tacoma are living in poverty.  Childhood poverty is a significant barrier to social wellbeing and economic opportunity for many.
  • The rate of childhood poverty is driven by limited earning potential of adults as opposed to absence from the workforce.
  • Many children are born into households with characteristics that are predictive of more sever and persistent poverty.
  • Many children are missing timely educational benchmarks that are predictive of academic achievement and future economic independence.
  • Many adolescents are struggling and face diminishing economic advancement opportunities.

Mental Health

  • Tacoma youth report lower rates of mental wellness, less sense of personal safety, and earlier and more consistent drug use than their statewide counterparts.
  • Tacoma residents have higher rates of being a victim of violence or being exposed to violence in the home than state averages.

Household Stability

  • Tacoma has a broad range of affordable housing options, however many residents struggle to secure stable, quality housing in Tacoma.
  • South and East neighborhoods show greater social and economic instability.