Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

South LA facing large nonprofit 'service gap': report

A Place Called Home gardening

José Martinez/KPCC

A young South L.A. resident participates in A Place Called Home's gardening program. A Place Called Home, located on Central Avenue, is one of the relatively few nonprofits in South Los Angeles.

There's a major gap in South Los Angeles when it comes to nonprofit human services, according to a new report that mapped and analyzed more than 6,200 such organizations in L.A. County.

The report, from UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs, noted that that nearly 70 percent of the people who are served by nonprofit organizations are below the poverty line. The thrust of its findings:

[Nonprofits] in poor neighborhoods are often quite small and often work in isolation from community resources and expertise. Moreover, these organizations face challenges of reaching the poor and marginalized, whose life circumstances can make it difficult to access the services offered.

Like South L.A., East L.A., Central L.A. and some parts of the San Fernando Valley were found to have big "service gaps." Thirty-one percent of L.A. County's 2,300-plus census tracts are considered poor; UCLA researchers found that several of those poor tracts in South L.A. didn't contain a single human services nonprofit, including ones in Vermont Knolls, South Park, Central Alameda, Florence and Watts.

Among the report's findings:

  • In L.A. County, there are fewer nonprofit organizations in low-income neighborhoods than there are in higher-income areas, meaning residents of the former "have less access to much needed human services and do not benefit from the potential contribution of these organizations to their quality of life."
  • The median revenue of nonprofits working in low-income neighborhoods is about $430,200. Compare that to the median revenue of all nonprofits in L.A. County: more than $962,400.
  • In poor neighborhoods, nonprofits tend to focus on "basic needs services": health care, youth development and academics.
  • More than four in 10 nonprofit survey respondents said cutbacks to government programs had affected their organizations – in particular, they affected their youth services, housing assistance and substance abuse services.
  • Nonprofits working in the poorest neighborhoods "are more likely to experience greater competition for resources." That said, there's still "a very high degree of collaboration to obtain funding and develop services."
  • The majority of nonprofit board members, "especially in extremely poor neighborhoods," are white.
  • Nonprofits that serve poor, predominantly black neighborhoods are likely to be small, have a median revenue of about $100,000 and are the least likely to get government funding.

Wrote the researchers:

The picture that emerges from the data is of underserved neighborhoods populated by small nonprofits that rely primarily on private donations. Most of these nonprofits have been active and sophisticated in engaging in capacity-building, but continue to struggle financially.

The report noted that in "extremely poor neighborhoods," 54 percent of nonprofit activity is dedicated to either basic needs assistance or clinical services.

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