One way to get a sense of a community and make a community assessment is to drive or walk around it, observing and taking note of its characteristics. These windshield and walking surveys can be an important part of a community assessment. In this section, we’ll describe them in more detail, and discuss how to conduct one successfully. Please open the attached documents for the instructions on the windshield survey assignment.
What are windshield and walking surveys?
Windshield surveys are systematic observations made from a moving vehicle. Walking surveys are systematic observations made on foot. Either or both can help you better understand either the community in general or a specific condition or aspect of it.
Windshield surveys are particularly useful when the area you want to observe is large, and the aspects you’re interested in can be seen from the road. A walking survey might be a better choice when you’re seeking to understand things that are harder to see from a moving vehicle.
Windshield and walking surveys can be used to assess general community needs – to estimate the poverty level, for example – or to examine more specific facets of the community’s physical, social, or economic character. Some possibilities:
• The age, nature, and condition of the community’s available housing
• Infrastructure needs – roads, bridges, streetlights, etc.
• The presence or absence of functioning businesses and industrial facilities
• The location, condition, and use of public spaces
• The amount of activity on the streets at various times of the day, week, or year
• The noise level in various parts of the community
• The amount and movement of traffic at various times of day
• The location and condition of public buildings – the city or town hall, courthouse, etc.
Why would you conduct windshield and walking surveys?
1. Windshield or walking surveys can be structured to provide an objective view of the community.
2. They can be adapted to community-based participatory action research, inviting community participation.
3. They can be the easiest and quickest way to get an overview of the entire community.
4. They allow clear comparisons among different parts of the community, and can help to determine where to focus your efforts.
5. They can be very useful in understanding specific aspects of a community. If your concern is with the community’s relationship to the environment, the nature of street life, traffic, or with any other particular element of community life or functioning, a windshield or walking survey that concentrates on that element can provide you with an overview and help you decide where to go next for more information.
6. They give you a “feel” for the community
7. Follow the instructions given in the assignment tab of the blackboard.
Read pages 44 – 47 of our class textbook and view the youtube video below.
Please view the attached file and use it as guidelines for your community windshield survey.
A. Windshield Survey
The Windshield Survey is comprised of general qualitative observations that give you a snapshot of the community that you can capture as you drive/walk through the community. The demographic data can be obtained online, through the public library, county or township administration buildings. Please address the following in a narrative format following APA guidelines:
1. Geographical description
• Boundaries, geographical, political, or economic, how is it seen.
• Housing an zoning
• Sign of decay
2. Health Resources
a. Type of services available: health department, private MD, dentist, hospital clinic,
b. pharmacy, health promotion, mental health
c. School and occupational health services
d. Official and voluntary services
e. Self help and support groups
f. Service organizations, faith-based programs
g. Stores (grocery, retail, drug, dry cleaning, etc.
3. Citizen safety and protective services
a. Police and fire
b. Shelters for victims of abuse
c. Others: neighborhood watch etc.
4. Services provided by senior citizens senior centers, meals on wheels, transportation, day care, long term care.
a. Parks and recreational areas
5. Community welfare services beyond city/state aid as provisions for emergency food, shelter and clothing.
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