About Community Resources Information, Inc.
This web site is being developed by Community Resources Information, Inc. (CRI). CRI is a not-for-profit, tax exempt, 501c3 charitable organization whose principal mission is to develop and maintain community-based Internet web sites which provide comprehensive information on community resources relevant to the needs of low and moderate-income families and individuals of all ages. CRI is an independent organization and is not affiliated with any state or local government agency nor with any forprofit firm.
CRI was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in the state of Massachusetts on October 2, 2000. The President of CRI is John C. Buckner, Ph.D., Vice-President is Jennifer Perloff, and Director of Web Site Operations is Jocelyne Bauduy.
For more information about CRI, read below, or follow this link to CRI's corporate web site.
WorcesterResources.org web site
This web site for Worcester is the first that CRI has developed and, to our knowledge, is the first of its kind. CRI expects to develop similar web sites in other communities (or states) across the country. Each web site will be tailored to a specific community (or state) and will provide in-depth coverage on resources across a variety of domains. The primary audience consists of the consumers of benefits, services, and programs described on the web site with service/benefit providers an important secondary audience.
CRI believes it is vitally important to discuss the aims of the project and get feedback on content from consumers and service providers in a community in order to develop the web site into something they will find very useful. We are working with consumers and service providers in Worcester, both individually and collectively through a Community Advisory Board, to provide us with content-relevant information, to advise on strategic and policy issues, and to give feedback both on the content and the experience of using the web site. Among the organizations we are working with include the Age Center of Worcester Area, Inc., Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance, Centro Las Americas, Family Health Center, Friendly House, Inc., Worcester Food Bank, Worcester Senior Center, Worcester WIC Program, and the Worcester City Manager's Executive Office of Planning and Community Development.
Why "Resources" web sites are needed
All individuals and families have basic needs including shelter, food, clothing, and health care. However, those with limited financial resources sometimes require the assistance of private and public programs and agencies in order to meet these needs. Such assistance may take the form of a housing subsidy, cash assistance, food stamps, fuel assistance, health care, mental health treatment, and the like. Yet, individuals and families in need may not know of the existence of benefit and service programs for which they may be eligible. Additionally, information on their availability, eligibility criteria, and application/acceptance procedures can be difficult to obtain, can change periodically, may not be in one’s primary language (e.g., Spanish) and are spread about in different places. For example, the application process to receive food stamps is complicated and requires meeting specific eligibility criteria. Those who might consider applying would find it useful to obtain the application form as well as information that describes the application process, how and where to apply, and whether or not they are likely to meet the eligibility criteria.
CRI believes that a compelling case can be made as to the need in cities for community-based web sites that describe vital resources and benefit programs. Our intent is to make the process of finding out about and obtaining community resources much easier and more coherent than is now the case for residents of most communities. By using the web site to obtain the information and application forms it has to offer, consumers of services will be more able to act for themselves and be less dependent on the limited number of people in the community with expertise on community benefits and programs. Such a web site can by no means replace an individual who helps link people in need to appropriate benefits and programs, but it can facilitate these efforts, help consumers become more empowered, and serve as a central repository of information on community resources relevant to the needs of low and moderate-income residents. Service providers and case managers, in turn, may that their use of the web site helps them to be more productive as information on a myriad of services and programs, which is updated on a regular basis, can be found in one location, thereby reducing the amount of time spent tracking down information to help their clients.
The difficulty that many persons with low income have in being able to access the Internet is an issue of growing concern as it further widens the gap between rich and poor. The difference in access to and use of the Internet between persons with high and low incomes has been referred to as the "digital divide." This issue is one that CRI is helping to address in Worcester in various ways including: 1) publicizing where Internet access can be obtained (e.g., public libraries, community and public housing centers, schools, kiosks, etc.); 2) training persons with low income in the use of a computer as well as web browser software; and 3) creating awareness of the web site among key individuals such as service providers and librarians who can facilitate access to the Internet and also serve as trainers.
Web site development in other communities besides Worcester
Community Resources Information, Inc. will lease the WorcesterResources.org web site as a template to not-for-profit organizations or government agencies in other cities or states. This template will enable organizations in other regions to replicate the WorcesterResources.org web site for their city (or state) at a small fraction of the cost as well as the time and effort to develop the original site. The design and format of the Worcester web site, information on federally-funded programs (e.g., food stamps, WIC, TAFDC, Section 8 subsidized housing, etc.), and its technological features can be kept intact with very few modifications needed for a different community. Tailoring a web site for a new community would primarily require changing information on state and local programs as well as modifying the eligibility check and application download features. Even so, as the needs of low-income individuals and families and the programs that assist them are fairly universal across communities, cities other than Worcester can greatly reduce the time, effort, and money necessary to develop a web site for their community by using WorcesterResources.org as a template.
The WorcesterResources.org web site was constructed using ColdFusion web site development software. Web pages were designed to be dynamically generated which greatly reduces the amount of HTML programming code that is needed and allows for easy editing. ColdFusion also enables certain important technological features of the web site such as the ability to perform eligibility checks and to gather feedback from web site users.
CRI, Inc. is willing to lease the web site template on an annual basis for a modest fee (depending upon the size of the city and version of the web site) to one organization per city. This organization will have exclusive rights to be the steward of the web site for their community provided it has a feasible plan for developing and maintaining the web site and adheres to the editorial policy of CRI, Inc. in the content that is provided on the web site. CRI, Inc. will oversee the hosting of each web site.
It is also possible to develop a web site for an entire state, not just a city or region, if so desired. For an example, see our "sister" web sites: MassResources.org, that serves the entire state of Massachusetts (but lacks the local level details that can be found on this Worcester site), and NewMexicoResources.org, which serves the entire state of New Mexico.
CRI, Inc. can offer a range of technical assistance plans (from modest to substantial assistance across a number of different tasks) in helping organizations tailor the WorcesterResources.org web site for its particular locale. Given administrative access to the template by CRI, Inc., the text of the web site can be easily edited (in a manner very similar to editing a word processing document), making it quite easy to change the content and "clone" it for a new community. Hence, much of the work necessary to tailor the template to a new city could be accomplished without the assistance of CRI, Inc. or web site programmers.
An additional benefit of leasing from CRI, Inc. is that continued efforts will be made to improve the technological features of the web site and enhance the content, thereby allowing organizations in other locales to benefit by leasing upgraded versions of the web site as they are developed.
CRI, Inc. created TaxCreditResources.org as well as MassResources.org using this Worcester web site as the template. The former web site provides detailed information about federal and some state tax credits that can be claimed by persons with low-to-modest income, whereas the latter web site is a statewide version of this web site.
For further information about Community Resources Information, Inc., or if you are interested in developing a web site in your area, please e-mail or call:
John C. Buckner, Ph.D., President
Community Resources Information, Inc.
P.O. Box 2067
Natick, MA 01760