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Ambassador program set to launch on Lyell

The Lyell Avenue neighborhood has seen decades of disinvestment. A new ambassador program aims to meet some of the on the ground needs of its residents.
Max Schulte
The Lyell Avenue neighborhood has seen decades of disinvestment.

The long-distressed Lyell Avenue neighborhood will soon be the newest host of so-called neighborhood ambassadors, aimed at bridging the gap between the streets and critical community resources.

The ambassador program will launch as a trial this summer. It will task an estimated 17 people from the local community with everything from litter clean-up to connecting residents with mental health and addiction services.

The program will be funded by $125,000 the city received from a settlement the state received as the result of a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. The Lyell Avenue program follows up on two other ambassador programs — one on North Clinton Avenue and one on Jefferson Avenue —, approved last year.

Cameron Community Ministries will manage the program. The organization's offices are located on Cameron Street off Lyell.

“We not only can say we go up and down Lyell and see the same people, we know these people by their first names, we know the struggles they may be going through, whether it’s addiction, mental health or poverty, and we built on those relationships,” said Jonathan Hardin, director of community engagement for Cameron. “Literally, every other day we have someone ring our doorbell and say, ‘Hey, can you help get me into treatment?’”

Ambassador programs are not unique to Rochester, with similar community group-led programs found in San Francisco, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh.

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The Rochester City Council approved the trial program in June. It will last one year, at which time it will be evaluated and considered for renewal.

Hardin said Cameron will be keeping tabs on the amount of people reached through the program and tangible metrics of its effect on the community, including people forwarded to treatment and mental health resources.

Gino Fanelli is an investigative reporter who also covers City Hall. He joined the staff in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.