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United Way report lists Southern Nevada quality-of-life challenges

The United Way released a report on Tuesday that paints yet another grim picture of the quality of life in Southern Nevada, especially for the poor, minorities and women.

The organization teamed with the Nevada Community Foundation to complete the 2007 Southern Nevada Community Assessment, highlighting the most pressing local needs in such areas as housing, health care, education and financial stability.

The stats were mostly negative and not surprising: Nevada consistently ranks at or near the bottom among U.S. states on quality-of-life reports.

Among the assessment’s low-lights:

• About 400,000 Nevadans don’t have health insurance.

• There is a lack of affordable, quality child care services in Clark County.

• Nevada’s system of services for people with disabilities is significantly underfunded.

• Clark County’s children lack many of the opportunities that are essential to positive youth development.

• Homeless service providers do not have the resources or capacity to meet the needs of the homeless population, let alone reduce homelessness.

• The lack of affordable housing is a serious problem in Southern Nevada.

“Fewer and fewer members of our community are able to buy homes,” said Dr. Keith Schwer, director of UNLV’s Center of Business and Economic Research, which led the study. “A high percentage of our community is grappling with basic family needs and the basic family budget.”

The report listed 47 percent of Clark County household incomes as falling below the “basic family budget” requirement of $52,272 a year for a family of four.

It also pointed out that quality-of-life challenges affecting all Southern Nevadans have even greater effects on women, minorities and the poor.

There was some good news, however. The report noted that Nevada’s youths smoke and gamble less than those in other states, and that Las Vegas is surrounded by millions of acres of well-managed public lands, “home to some of the richest variety of plant and animal species in the U.S.”

But, according to the report, kids here use marijuana and methamphetamine more than elsewhere in the nation.

The report includes information gathered from existing data and new surveys. The United Way plans to use the information in developing long-term solutions to problems in the areas of health care, education and financial stability.

Southern Nevadans rank the lack of affordable health care as their No. 1 community concern, according to the report.

“Many families are just one step away from a financial problem when dealing with health care problems,” Schwer said.

United Way of Southern Nevada chief Dan Goulet said working to improve the economic stability of local families would improve conditions across the board.

“Financial stability is the key to home ownership, access to health care” and education, he said.

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