Hope Conference Provides Resources for Valley Residents
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Tables lined the Covelli Centre on Thursday, occupied by representatives from various agencies to provide resources for Mahoning Valley residents in need.
The annual Hope Conference, presented by the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, focuses on providing resources and items to individuals who may be returning citizens, in recovery, have a record or are struggling in other ways, said Guy Burney, director of the CIRV.
“Knowledge is power. Knowing what agency can assist you and your specific needs is important. We’re happy to provide that here,” Burney said.
License services from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, job assistance from Ohio Means Jobs, free business clothing from Dress To Succeed and different legal agencies for law assistance were available.
“We have over 128 agencies here, all willing to give their time, talent and resources to help people,” Burney said. “We have Job and Family Services here, people helping with child support. We have employers here and much more.”
Burney said he’s excited about how much the Hope Conference has grown since its first year.
“We started very small at Youngstown State University inside Kilcawley Center, and it was just half a day. It has grown to be here. We have vendors inside of Covelli. There are trucks on the outside, and people in the foyer,” Burney said. “Last year there were over a thousand people. We think we’ll be around there and steady all day.”
One of the resources available for returning citizens is Home For Good. Elisa Hosey, reentry resource specialist, said the organization’s focus is to provide legal protection and help individuals return to productive life at home.
“We work with the Akron School of Law to get a certificate of qualification for employment, which provides more protection for a person who may have a criminal background. It removes those barriers that prevent them from employment, housing, education or getting your license,” Hosey said.
The Hope Conference is all about how to help in the most efficient way possible for those most vulnerable in the community, according to Burney.
“It takes barriers away, such as transportation or a time barrier for people who are struggling with something in their background, addiction, or just need help,” Burney said. “If I had to go to these three different agencies [as someone struggling], it would take me days because they’re not in the same places.”
The Youngstown Police Department was handing out papers for legal and social work resources, as well as mentor opportunities. Malik Mostella, the community liaison officer for YPD, said the Hope Conference strengthens the relationship between YPD and the community.
“[The Hope Conference] is important so people can see us as people – where people can actually talk to us and interact with us because they don’t look at us in that light,” Mostella said. “But here, they look at us and see that we are no different than the rest of them.”
Ja’Lesa Thomas, administrative assistant for Mayor Jamael Tito Brown’s office, said the conference is meant to inspire and inform people about the community resources and that the city of Youngstown is here to help.
“Giving people the hope to get a job, get them information for mental health, educational opportunities and other resources to help them,” Thomas said. “We want to give them a reason to say, ‘Youngstown is a great place to be.’”
Pictured at top: Guy Burney, director of the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.