UC Merced research project examines South Dos Palos

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 26, 2012 

No jobs, a lack of infrastructure, a delay in fire and law enforcement response and many loose dogs roaming the streets.

Those are among the findings from a research project aimed at gathering information on one of the poorest communities in Merced County.

The needs and challenges of the small unincorporated rural town of South Dos Palos mirror those of other small rural communities in the Central Valley.

South Dos Palos is a community with one of the widest disparities of poverty, said Robin DeLugan, a professor at UC Merced, who led the research, which will be a part of a bigger project. DeLugan said the project confirmed what she and others already knew.

However, there wasn't concrete information using statistics and percentages about the community's specific needs to really represent what's going on, she said.

This project intended to do just that.

"We were waiting for an opportunity to show where research can make a difference," she said.

Talking with residents

Last spring, a group of 30 undergraduate students went door-to-door to try to get information from residents about local conditions. DeLugan said they were able to get information from about 215 households, which represents about 70 percent of the occupied homes in South Dos Palos.

Some of the information was about public safety, how long residents have to travel for groceries and medical services and what they like or dislike about their community. "We are hoping the information becomes useful in shedding light on the community," DeLugan said.

The data can be used for grant writing to help improve the community. "Those are our goals with the data that we collected," DeLugan said.

Some of the problems indicated by residents aren't so hard to solve. For example, one safety issue was an excess of loose dogs, which can be addressed, she said.

Students spent last fall analyzing the data. On Sunday, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., there will be an exhibit of their work at the UC Merced Kolligian Library, Room 355.

The next step will be to disseminate information to the residents and get them involved in making changes.

A portion of the survey used for South Dos Palos residents will be used in other rural unincorporated communities in the Central Valley, which will bring opportunities for comparison, DeLugan said.

DeLugan and her team, along with such other organizations as the Community University Research and Action for Justice, California Rural Legal Assistance and PolicyLink, began to work with the George Washington Carver Center board members to collect the data. The Carver Center is a community center in Dos Palos.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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