Mobile Hope Conference Is ‘a Way to Touch the Community’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Traveling from a recent funeral in Warren to his home in Campbell, Terrance Jeffries came across some unexpected information about mental health and drug counseling services provided by The Red Zone.

Jeffries said he knows someone to whom he can pass the information – someone who might be able to get the help they need.  

Those like Jeffries who were getting off a bus at the Western Reserve Transit Authority station downtown got a chance to learn about resources available in the community while they waited for their next ride Tuesday.

The Mobile Hope Conference was a one-stop resource for information on jobs, housing, returning citizens, mental health and drug assistance.

“This is actually a perfect event for those of us in the community who provide services to those who need them,” said Dominic Mancini, CEO of The Red Zone. “This was very enlightening, and we were able to talk to a lot of people and kind of encourage them or boost their day. And a lot of them said they have friends or they themselves need the services that we offer, so it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Not everyone knows about The Red Zone and all the recovery services it offers downtown. Tuesday’s event let the organization get the word out.

Guy Burney, right, director of the Youngstown Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, helped organize the event outside the WRTA, along with Beau Ripple, a YSU intern, and Carla Gipson of CIRV.

“This is really grassroots marketing. It’s what you have to do when you are in the business that we are, which is helping people with addiction and mental health issues,” Mancini said.

A collaborative effort of many organizations, the Mobile Hope Conference came together when they looked for new places and ways to touch the community. Esmeralda Vargas, WRTA mobility manager, said with one side of the station’s lot closed for renovations, it was an ideal place for the Mobile Hope Conference, which had set up to meet the public at some of the busiest times for the station, between 10 a.m. and early afternoon.

Guy Burney, director of the Youngstown Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, approached Vargas about the possibility of hosting the event at the WRTA. Unlike the large Hope Conference the group held earlier in the year at Covelli Centre, which included many vendors and reached thousands, he felt this event brought the resources directly out to the people.

Burney said he knows some people are unable to attend their other event due to transportation or other barriers, but many commute through the bus station. This event did not require any additional effort by those it served, maybe reaching those reluctant to seek help.

“We’re going to pick spots where we know the public will be at,” said Burney of the effort to have more of these events. “We are just going to fly in on them, bring our stuff, sign them up and then follow up with the people. It’s just a way to touch the community.”

On Tuesday morning he had spoken to many people who live downtown and many others on the outskirts. A collaborative effort with so many social services organizations, the event provided a plethora of information. Pamphlets explained how to find jobs, help for mental health, help feeding a family, insurance, vaccinations for children, housing, victim services and expungement for those returning from prison.

“We’re No. 2 nationally when it comes to child poverty,” Burney said. “We want to make sure people can access the resources that help them solidify their families. Because I run the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, I realize that when families are stable, then we are better as a community.”

By getting community support to families, by getting the community involved, Burney said, Youngstown is a better place for everyone. While violence may eb and flow, Burney said there is no time to slow down initiatives to bring resources to those who need them.

Steve Mondak, facilitator with OhioMeansJobs in Boardman, provided information about obtaining employment to those passing through the WRTA bus station.

One of the resources that can stabilize a family is a good-paying job. Steve Mondak, facilitator with OhioMeansJobs at 127 Poland-Canfield Road in Boardman, was among those who came to the WRTA station. His table there gave him a way to inform those who may not know about the resources OhioMeansJobs offers, many which can be accessed online. 

Jobs are plentiful right now, and Mondak believes unemployment should be zero. 

The Mahoning Valley’s low cost of living and a background in manufacturing and the trades are both reasons why Mondak believes people who left over the years are returning. With a strong workforce and wages far higher than the cost of living, he believes things are looking up in the area.

Mondak says he met people there looking for a new job and others recently laid off. He suggested to those stopping by his table that they do not need to settle for an entry level wage job. 

Carshara Bradley helps people find housing through United Returning Citizens.

“It’s very personal to me,” Bradley said. “I am a returning citizen myself. I was formerly incarcerated nine years ago, and coming home, wanting to start your life and do the right thing, you need programs like this.”

Bradley said it is hard to find a job with a felony conviction, but URC provides those resources and support so people know there is a second chance available. 

“Sometimes people just come in and just need to talk, so we create that space so they know that they are not alone,” Bradley said.

Besides handing out information on URC services Tuesday, Bradley, housing coordinator; April Slocum, intake specialist; and Nina Shutack, re-entry social worker, were promoting an upcoming fundraising event: An Evening in Casablanca at Stambaugh Auditorium on Oct. 6. The money from the evening will be used to help build tiny homes, because Bradley notes a high percentage of people coming home from prison are homeless.

Pictured at top: Three staff members from United Returning Citizens – April Slocum, Carshara Bradley and Nina Shutack – provided those stopping by their booth with information about how the group can help them regain a home, a job and other necessities after incarceration.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.