Project Goals: This project sought to gain understanding of the "walk-in" phenomenon at the Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM), where hundreds of Karen people who are not enrolled in any program "walk-in" for various types of assistance every month. The main goal was to gather data about the demographics, needs, and services provided to walk-ins, and also insight into the phenomenon from the perspective of staff at the KOM and walk-ins themselves. KOM hopes to use the data collected during this project for future program development, building strategic referrals, to identify areas for staff training, and to advocate for the unmet needs and challenges facing the Karen community.
Methods: The study utilized three forms of data gathering. A front desk sign-in sheet and activity record forms tracked all people who came to the KOM office over a 32-day period. In addition, the study conducted 5 focus groups with 11 KOM staff and 15 community members who have walked-in to KOM for assistance. Demographic data was analyzed using RStudio and Excel and activities were coded and sorted into categories. Focus group data were inductively coded and organized into themes and sub-themes. Three main themes emerged that corresponded to two discussion topics explored in the focus groups: the greatest unmet needs and challenges facing the Karen community, and the perceived role of the KOM in the local resettlement system. The researcher then went back to the focus group data and coded for these three themes.
Findings: This project identified 11 service domains that describe the assistance the KOM staff provided to walk-ins during the reporting period. The main reason walk-ins came to the KOM office during the research period was for assistance related to public assistance benefits, primarily assistance with ongoing reporting requirements. The other domains included: interpreting and paperwork (other); employment, housing; court/legal system; health (non benefit eligibility-related); SSI disability; education; travel loan; and Department of Motor Vehicles/car insurance. The two major themes that emerged from the focus group data included: the language barrier; a need for more education and orientation; that Karen people come to KOM for assistance with solving complex problems. Recommendations include: for KOM to secure a central client database to track services to walk-ins throughout the year, to identify additional sources of funding to support ongoing interpretation and systems navigation services for Karen people, and working with other agencies to decrease barriers for Karen people to access services; and for Ramsey County to increase language capacity to serve Karen people. More research could be useful for designing education/orientation curriculum and is especially needed to understand the category of "family problems."
Conducted on behalf of The Karen Organization of Minnesota. Supported by the Kris Nelson Community-Based Research Program, a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota.
Understanding the "Walk-In" Phenomenon at the Karen Organization of Minnesota.
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