Delena Givens Brown can't decide which is a more pressing issue in her north Omaha community — improving education or trying to reduce gang violence.
Brown was one of about 200 north Omaha residents who gathered Wednesday night to discuss the problems facing the area. People were asked to fill out a lengthy survey asking about quality of life in their community.
The town-hall style gathering at North High School was hosted by United Way of the Midlands, the Omaha Community Foundation and the Iowa West Foundation.
The organizations have hired a research company to gather data to pinpoint the greatest needs in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area.
Sara Boyd, Omaha Community Foundation president, said the study will help the three organizations fund evidence-based projects in response to people's concerns.
“We are hosting these community conversations so people who are facing struggles can have their voices heard,” said Shawna Forsberg, United Way spokeswoman. “We will then use the data to help direct our funding decisions in the future.”
The north Omaha meeting was the third such conversation. The first two were in west Omaha and Council Bluffs.
South Omaha residents are encouraged to attend the final meeting, which will be at the Kroc Center, 2825 Y St., from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday. Dinner and child care will be provided.
So far, United Way has noticed a few topics that have come up several times. People are generally concerned about financial stability, health care and education, Forsberg said.
Several west Omaha residents said they would like to have better public transportation.
Council Bluffs residents are worried about poverty and lack of jobs.
Citizens said Wednesday night that diversity, parks and strong nonprofits make north Omaha a great place to live.
On the laundry list of things to improve, people said they'd like to see safe, affordable housing; more jobs that pay enough to support a family; greater access to mental and general health care; better public transportation; and easier access to fresh vegetables and fruit.
Tulani Grundy Meadows, a program administrator for the Women's Center for Advancement, said what north Omaha needs is hope and a better early childhood education system.
“It's hard for young African-Americans to feel like they can succeed when they don't have professionals in their own community to aspire to,” Meadows said.
Residents of Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie Counties are invited to take the survey online until June 30.
It's available at www.Your-Voice-Matters.org. About 1,700 people have already filled out the online survey.