Virtual gathering highlights needs of Latino community

Increased collaboration, community partnerships and more available resources.

These were identified as the key ingredients to the future of Rochester’s El Camino neighborhood, which was discussed during the 2023 State of the Latinx Community virtual luncheon Oct. 16.

This year’s topic was “Nuestro Barrio, Rochester’s Future: A focus on the current public safety issues facing the El Camino Neighborhood.” The purpose of the luncheon was to share an expanded profile of the local Latino community and present awards to those recognized for their service.

Ibero lauded by the community, lawmakers and law enforcement

Ibero American Action League, which hosted the virtual luncheon, was lauded throughout the event by lawmakers and law enforcement as a primary source of outreach, services, community-building and planning for Rochester’s Latino community.

“Ibero has fought to open the doors to Rochester’s largest employers to Latinx workers, and they continue to lead the charge to make sure that Spanish speakers and their children are treated fairly across all areas of society,” noted Rochester Mayor Malik Evans.

While acknowledging gains in the El Camino Neighborhood — from the revitalization of culture at La Marketa and the International Plaza, and the success of participating in such programs as Double Up Food Bucks — participants also addressed ongoing problems. They cited the area’s disproportionate share of crime and violence, including gun violence and domestic violence, and the presence of an open-air heroin market in the neighborhood.

Complex problems demand collaborative solutions

Presenters agreed that problems and solutions are complex, and that efforts must be made among diverse coalitions that encompass local community, law enforcement, education, health care, housing, economic opportunity and healthy food options.

Keynote speaker Irshad Altheimer, director of the Center for Public Safety Initiatives at Rochester Institute of Technology, stated that a program of study and research must accompany services and outreach to identify more specifically the root problems in the neighborhood.

He spoke about young people being exposed to unacceptable levels of violence, presenting statistics of homicides and shootings in the neighborhood. In 2022, there were 10 homicides and 36 shootings, he noted. The concentration of gun violence along the Clinton corridor showed that in a 1-mile-square radius of Clinton Avenue and Avenue D, there are around 1,100 people who have been shot between 2000 and 2018, he said.

Altheimer stated that the children and young people who experience trauma from this violence impact the goals for the community. He invited participants of the virtual luncheon to think about such long-term causes of violence as poverty, addiction and lack of education, as well as immediate work that can be done using collaborative models. As an example of such a model, he cited Project Clean, which aims to address the heroin crisis in northeast Rochester.

“People have to feel safe if they’re going to engage in the community the way we desire them to engage in the El Camino Neighborhood,” Altheimer said.

Ibero partners with a new community nonprofit organization, Rochester Hope

Miguel Melendez, Ibero’s chief community engagement officer, noted how Ibero is partnering with the new nonprofit organization Rochester Hope, which offers a variety of services and programs to those living in the neighborhood around St. Michael Church. Last year, Melendez said, Ibero’s administrative offices moved to the campus of St. Michael Church and are now located in the former convent on North Clinton Avenue. Ibero and Rochester Hope plan to collaborate on more services on the St. Michael’s campus, he said, including Centro de Oro, a senior program made possible by a grant from Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. The program will open in the former church hall that is now the St. John the Baptist Community Center.

Awards presented to community leaders during the virtual luncheon

In addition to discussing the future of the neighborhood, awards were distributed to three members of the community who have made a positive impact. Monroe County Executive Adam Bello congratulated the award recipients in a pre-recorded message that also thanked Ibero for working alongside Monroe County in addressing the needs of the Latino community.

The Alicia Torres Award was presented to Orlando Ortiz, CEO of RocOn Property Management and president of the Rochester Puerto Rican Festival, who spoke of the power of unity.

The Unsung Hero Award went to Ronald “Ron” Malley, retired lieutenant with the Rochester Police Department, who said that working in the Northeast Quadrant Service Center was one of the most rewarding experiences of his career.

And Ida Perez, director of Ibero’s Early Childhood Services, received the President’s Award for her dedication to the center. She said that as she retires from the directorship, she expects to spend more time in advocacy work in the community.

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