Outreach center for at-risk teens debuts in Fields Corner

The Dorchester Resources and Advocacy Program, a targeted outreach program for at-risk youth, is just beginning its work in the former home of the Dorchester Youth Academy at 1532 Dorchester Ave.

It arrived with little fanfare in June, and began taking names of gang and court involved youth from probation officers and the Department of Youth Services in the Bowdoin-Geneva, Uphams Corner and Fields Corner areas in July.

"They're really scared of who we are because they don't know who we are, that's the challenge we face," said Yalitza Casado, who runs the place with one other employee. "But when they come to the program and see the other kids and the programs it intrigues them and they want to come back."

Casado said some 15 out of 28 referrals have become active participants in the program, enough to encourage the program to open its doors to the public on Sept. 26 from 2 to 6 p.m., an open house for the community.

Aside from GED help, young parent counseling, computer and social skills classes and other normal fare, the program carries with it an intense case management aspect based on the "Transformational Relationships" model developed by ROCA in Chelsea, which is acting as a consultant.

Casado admits there are some serious challenges involved in the work, which targets 17 to 24-year-olds who face significant challenges and often a police record. "There are 44 gangs bumping heads in a six-block radius," she said.

The Dorchester Youth Collaborative just a block away is constantly on its toes to prevent gang violence inside its doors, which are open to all youth save those who tend toward violent behavior. Casado hopes to reach those youth who have been kicked out of there or other programs such as the YMCA or Boys and Girls Clubs.

D-RAP is operated by Community Resources for Justice, a company that also operates halfway houses in the South End and Fenway neighborhoods.

Notably, CRJ's Coolidge House on 307 Huntington Ave. was home to state Senator Dianne Wilkerson for one summer month in 1998 after she broke the terms of her house arrest for a tax evasion conviction, as well as a stopover for ex-mayor of Providence Vincent "Buddy" Cianci when he released from four and a half years of prison time served for federal racketeering charges.

Neighbors to that house in the Fenway neighborhood have generally found it to be a good and responsive neighbor.