10-Minute Maps: Where are the vulnerable populations at risk of having their utilities disconnected?

Why this question matters

Have you turned on your heater, yet? Has your city gotten any snow? As we approach the winter season, maintaining continuous utility service is crucial for well-being and health. Unfortunately, many families struggle to afford the cost to heat their home and risk utility disconnection. Older or disabled community members may find it more difficult to cut back on their utility usage due to spending more time at home or a dependency on medical machines.

If your community offers a utility assistance program, or you’re working to improve enrollment in LIHEAP (the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ fuel assistance program), you may know that resident knowledge of these programs is often the largest barrier to enrollment. You may also know the challenge of executing a targeted educational program that increases enrollment and decreases utility disconnections.

The first (and most crucial) step is to identify who is most at-risk of having their utilities shut off and where they live. The Data Storytellers at mySidewalk have developed a map that can help you quickly identify older adults at risk of utility disconnection with just three key variables: utility type, population age 65 and over, and poverty status.

 

When and where to use this map

This map can be easily presented to any department charged with administering utility assistance programs or education.  You can also share this map with your local Housing or Neighborhood Services department to identify areas for home weatherization funding allocation. Here’s an example of the final map, which we created for our hometown of Kansas City, MO. Click on the image below to interact with the published version.

10 minute map: at-risk for utility disconnection
 

How to create the map in 10 minutes

  • Create the map. Create a map using your community’s geography and census block groups as the sub geography. This is displaying your entire community, but we’ll narrow down to specific census block groups of interest through Filters.

  • Add the dataset People Below Poverty Level. Within the Edit Menu, select the Filters tab. Click Add a Filter, then search and add the dataset People Below Poverty Level. The following parameters will filter and retain the top 50% of census block groups in your community for the percent of population below the poverty level.

    • Normalize by: Population with Poverty Status Determined

    • Filter Type: Percentile

    • Filter Conditions: Geographies must meet ALL conditions

    • Condition 1 - Operator: At least; Value: 50

    • Once all parameters are correct, select Done to add the filter.

  • Add the dataset Population Age 65 and Over. Click Add A Filter to add the second of three filters. Search and add the dataset Population Age 65 and Over. The following parameters will filter and retain the top 50% of census block groups in your community for the percent of population that is 65 years or older from the current map.

    • Normalize by: Total Population

    • Filter Type: Percentile

    • Filter Conditions: Geographies must meet ALL conditions

    • Condition 1 - Operator: At least; Value: 50

    Once all parameters are correct, select Done to add the filter.

  • Add the Dataset Heating Fuel for Housing Units. Select Add A Filter once more for the last parameter. Find Heating Fuel for Housing Units. Depending on what utility type is more common in your community, select Utility Gas or Electric.

    • Normalize by: Total Occupied Housing Units

    • Filter Type: Percentile

    • Filter Conditions: Geographies must meet ALL conditions

    • Condition 1: - Operator: At least; Value: 50

The census block groups remaining on the map are those with the highest percentages of people who are over 65 years old, are below the poverty level, and are using gas (or electric) depending on your selection) to heat their home. These are a good start for selecting areas you should strategically target for educational programs.

  • Add data to the map to show where the highest percentage of seniors live. To prioritize census block groups with the most seniors, select the Style tab to return to the styling options. Select the blue Style by Data button next to fill color.  Search and locate the dataset Population Age 65 and Over again and add.

    • Normalize by: Total Population

    • Label: Population Age 65 and Over per capita

    • Format: Ratio as Percent

  • Add a title and source information. In Map Settings, style your map with a descriptive title, legend and appropriate source information in the footnote. You may also want to add the boundary of your community,  to the map or change the Map Style or colors. When you’re finished styling your map, click Done.

  • Share your map. In the editor on the right, select the Share tab and under Publish Settings, select Published - Public or Published - Private. Send the link to key stakeholders so they can interact with the data and use it for decision-making.

This is a quick and powerful map that you can create on your own in 10 minutes or less! If you would like help getting started, connect with your Customer Development Manager.