Roanoke’s civic infrastructure is focused on making a “collective impact” enabling it to effectively address complex issues by employing grassroots, collaborative, data driven, evidence-based and comprehensive framework. This approach established nationally recognized programs such as an early childhood learning initiative, addressing the opioid crisis and enhancing access to health care. Roanoke organizers have abandoned an “organizational driven approach” in favor of a “community activation approach.” Leaders from Roanoke’s government, healthcare and nonprofit agencies practice more effective resident engagement collectively creating better conditions of health and well-being.
The depth and effectiveness of Roanoke’s civic infrastructure is evidenced in their highlighted projects.
Improved Access to Health Care
Respondents of the Roanoke Community Health Needs Assessment listed “access to care” as a barrier to good health. With this shared understanding of access challenges, Healthy Roanoke Valley was formed to include more than 50 organizations focused on the social determinants of health.
Initiatives guided by Healthy Roanoke Valley include:
Improved Access to Fresh Food
As a result of 17% of residents in Roanoke being food-insecure and 24% living in food deserts, the Local Environmental Action Project (LEAP) was formed with a mission to “nurture healthy communities and resilient local food systems.”
Initiatives of this nonprofit have included:
With financial support from Carilion Clinic, LEAP initiated several programs focused on making healthy local food more affordable.
Roanoke has begun focusing federal funding on targeted neighborhoods to see a greater impact by leveraging the funding with money from businesses and area nonprofits. As part of the process, each month, residents of the Melrose and Orange Avenue area and other stakeholders meet to provide input and receive updates about development.
Safe Housing – Over a hundred homes have been renovated or constructed, all benefitting very low to low income residents. Additionally, Lead Safe Roanoke has cut lead poisoning risks in 499 homes.
New Library Branch – Melrose Branch has been constructed through a partnership between the City and Goodwill Industries of the Valley. The branch includes 30 new computers, a STEM lab and a small business center.
Community Solutions Center – The center serves as a location for community members to gather and address issues of importance to them and work toward solutions.
Community Build Barrier-Free Playground – The Roanoke Kiwanis Club will open a $400,000, barrier-free playground located next to the new Melrose library branch.
Business District Enhancements – The neighborhood’s business district will benefit from replaced sidewalks, enhanced landscaping and bus shelters. Each of these enhancements was the result of a series of meetings and design workshops with the adjacent business owners and area residents, led by architecture and urban planning students from nearby Virginia Tech University.