Buncombe County is taking new steps to alleviate poverty, and it’s looking to the community for ideas.
Representatives of 22 organizations attended a July 15 Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) meeting, where they learned of Buncombe’s new Request for Information (RFI) on poverty remediation. County leaders are interested in community practices to remedy poverty and are seeking information on local anti-poverty programs. According to county provided documents, almost 18 percent of Buncombe County residents live in poverty, and over 38 percent are low-income.
“An RFI is a precursor to a Request for Proposal,” BCHHS Planner Tim Love told meeting attendees. “The government has something to resolve, in this case poverty, and it looks to vendors and organizations in the community to provide responses. The intent here is for you guys to give us ideas.”
The county is focusing on five criteria as staff review the responses: evidence-based practice, comprehensive approach, focus on community, collaboration, and programs that are experienced, with proven results in areas influenced by poverty (such as education, income and housing). County officials are encouraging collaborative submissions between organizations.
“We want to know what your methodology is,” said Love. “Your qualifications, where have you done this before, and how do you know it works.”
“We are looking for concrete outcomes and evidence based practices,” Social Work Director Angela Pittman added. “But that doesn’t mean if you bring us something exciting and new … that we wouldn’t look at it. We have a preference for programs proven to work, but we’re open to your new ideas if there’s research coming along to support it.”
The deadline for responses is Thursday, July 31. The county will then evaluate each response. “Based on that,” said Love. “We may put together an RFP.”
The potential award date, he added, is January 2015, though that is not set in stone.
The push for an RFI, said Pittman, was a combination of factors: It’s a priority for Buncombe County commissioners as well as part of the county’s sustainability plan; further, BCHHS had seen in increase in the numbers of people on food assistance and other programs, and has received feedback from community leaders regarding the issue. The county had not done an RFI for a “very long time,” she said.
County representatives were reluctant to talk in money terms, saying they’d prefer to see what plans and ideas there were, then fit the money to the needs of the practice.
“The risk of giving even a ballpark [budget],” said BCHHS Planner Rachael Nygaard, “would be limiting ideas, because now you’re trying to fit your ideas into whatever number we give.”
In reply to concerns regarding the short time frame, Pittman said that responses needed to be “just enough to hook us.” Any interested organization should submit a response that addresses all criteria to Rachel Nygaard (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 31.