Linda Blunt, CEO of the Youth Outreach Adolescent Awareness Program (YOACAP), recently galvanized the group to address growing concerns in the Southwest section of the city. Issues included the increase in sexually transmitted diseases in the area in addition to a rise in violence.
Using the Rapid Awareness Rapid Evaluation (RARE) process, a method used successfully to identify and resolve a crisis stemming from infected mosquitoes in Africa, YOACAP has been successful in networking with local residents and finding solutions to the problems they face.
The group has taken on issues of crime, communal blight, educational disparities and sexually transmitted diseases with noticeable effect.
In fact, they have proven so successful in the Southwest area of the city they are preparing to export the RARE movement to areas of North Philadelphia facing similar issues.
“When we started that process in Southwest Philadelphia, we had a lot of naysayers who said the community couldn’t come together, that it wouldn’t stick, that it would never get the support,” Blunt said. “That effort is still going on and is a larger voice of the service provisions and commitment that YOACAP has for Philadelphia.”
Facing problems in North Philadelphia that are similar to those as in Southwest, Blunt saw an opportunity to take the process there.
“It looked so much about what happened in Southwest that we should tell them how well we did in Southwest and apply to do this in other areas of the city that we are connected to and feel very strongly about,” Blunt said. “The statistics bear out that they are at risk like Southwest for everything. So we thought ‘let’s concentrate on the areas we have first, we have relationships with, second, that we are connected to and third, that are the hardest hit.”
In fact, the RARE process works by engaging communities, establishing dialogue with its residents and building working relationships with community partners.
Woody Beale is a Southwest resident who hails from the Hunting Park section of North Philadelphia. She’s also involved with YOACAP.
“We can’t be all over the city — but one of the things we try to do is to look at neighborhoods that people might not be working in but thought were areas that are close by and where we have close relationships with people,” she said.