OUR VIEW: Outreach initiative wise move in Ravenna

Team effort positive approach to addressing downtown issues

Published:

A program focusing on the needs of individuals in the downtown Ravenna area -- a partnership effort aimed at addressing concerns including loitering, soliciting and other activities -- is a good move that could alleviate issues raised by business owners and others who frequent the city's center.

The Downtown Ravenna Outreach Program is a joint effort involving the city, the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County and Coleman Professional Services, Family & Community Services, Townhall II and Catholic Charities of Portage County. Its goal is to identify the factors surrounding the concerns that have been raised and, ideally, to make services available to those who could benefit from them.

"We need to find out what people need," said Mayor Joe Bica, "We really need to get to the root causes of some of our issues downtown."

A $10,000 grant from the Mental Health and Recovery Board will support the initial phase of the program, which will be an information-gathering effort by Coleman outreach coordinator Michael Wisniewski with the support of the city. Businesses, residents and others in the downtown area will be interviewed to assess concerns and possible ways that perceived problems can be addressed.

Ravenna's downtown area has had a residential component for more than 100 years because its commercial blocks were constructed to include housing on the upper floors. Affordable housing, the pedestrian-friendly nature of the area and its proximity to social service agencies has attracted some residents whose behavior has prompted concerns.

While police can deal with criminal issues, some of the issues raised by business owners and others could be better addressed through social service agencies. Fostering a linkage between the appropriate agencies and those who could benefit from their services would be beneficial for all concerned.

The outreach effort is a progressive move that could improve the quality of life for all of Ravenna's residents. We commend the city and the agencies that have partnered with it and hope that it is successful.

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