Outreach program is slowly breaking down barriers

When PhillyRising first ventured into the Hartranft neighborhood in early 2010, residents were “unbelievably suspicious,” recalled John Farrell, the city’s deputy managing director. About five people came out to an initial meeting and, although they were friendly, they were wary.

“The area seemed to have fallen between the cracks,” said Farrell, who is also director of PhillyRising, earlier this year. “They weren’t upset, but they said, ‘It’s just that everyone ends up overlooking us.'”

PhillyRising targets neighborhood plagued by crime and partners with residents to make changes. It is a support mechanism of the Philadelphia Police Department. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey talks about the crime triangle, and one of the sides of that triangle is environment.

“When we looked at the data, we saw that places that have a lot of quality of life issues always have a lot of crime issues and vice versa,” Farrell said. “If the quality of life improves, the crime is reduced.”

Hartranft, an area bordered by Lehigh Ave. to York Road and Sixth to 10th streets, lies just northeast of Temple University. It has a high density of Part 1 — or more serious — crimes. All nine of the neighborhoods where PhillyRising works share that trait.

PhillyRising, which has no budget for programs, has still managed to wrangle substantial changes to Hartranft. It has brought a Police Athletic League to the neighborhood, arranged to have a city pool opened and gathered donated computers so residents could have a local computer lab and G.E.D. training site.

“There’s not a lot of money, but there’s a lot of things happening,” Farrell said.

Hartranft residents have begun to trust the PhillyRising team, opening up about more changes they’d like to see.

“After we got a few victories, it was a textbook example of a small building of trust,” Farrell said. “It’s started to paint this more detailed, incredibly complex, picture.”

PhillyRising is in Market East, Strawberry Mansion, Kensington, Frankford, Swampoodle, Point Breeze, Elmwood and Haddington.

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