The Area Project Concept
The concept of the area project was developed by Clifford R. Shaw (1895-1957) a sociologist who founded the Chicago Area Project in the early 1930s. Noticing that the greatest concentration of juvenile delinquents were living in economically depressed communities, Shaw developed a guiding philosophy that would battle juvenile delinquency by strengthening those neighborhoods and involving their residents in community-building programs.
Shaw’s bottom-up approach had its critics. It sharply contrasted with the traditional approach of attempting to reduce juvenile delinquency, which was to impose programs and rules on the communities from above. It was only through the tangible success the Chicago Area Project had in the neighborhoods it worked with that his methodology gained acceptance.
The Area Project Concept in Champaign-Urbana
In the mid-1980s, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) began working with the residents of Lakeside Terrace, a public housing complex in Urbana. The project was terminated due to conflicts between the workers and the vision of the project. It was in the wake of the termination of this project that the Champaign-Urbana community saw a great need for a group that would be dedicated to working with the residents of public housing. It was out of this need that the Champaign-Urbana Area Project (CUAP) was born.
CUAP was created in 1988 with the Illinois Center for Citizens Involvement acting as its fiscal agent. In 1989, a contract was signed with DCFS to provide services to public housing complexes in Champaign-Urbana. These services included after-school youth programs as well as the provision of resources necessary for the public housing residents to organize and take some measure of control over their own communities. With the assistance of CUAP, the public housing Resident Councils were created to bring residents together to help each other handle the challenges they faced while living in public housing and to assist them in communicating issues they had with the Housing Authority of Champaign County.
CUAP in the 1990s
CUAP was incorporated as a non-profit organization in September 1990. Throughout the early 1990s, CUAP worked dilligently in the community, strengthening our ties to parents and schools and focusing upon monitoring gang recruitment and locating and developing recreational resources for children and youth. CUAP formed several committees, including two youth organizations: a group for boys called the Warriors and a group for girls called the African-American Young Women Achieving Goals. To increase access to the community, CUAP relocated its offices to Restoration Urban Ministries. Moreover, CUAP stood at the forefront of the Local Area Network (LAN) Project that was developed by DCFS as an effort to coordinate the delivery of social services to children and families.
In the mid 1990s, CUAP started several committees including the Eager Beaver Parents, Community Response to Kids, Sisters With Accomplishments, MALES (Motivating, Acheiving and Learning the Essentials of Success), MYS (Mentoring Young Sisters), and the Dunbar Court Youth Group. It was also during this period that CUAP was proud to provide aid to other grass-roots community organizations dedicated to assisting CUAP’s targeted area, such as Best Interest of Children and Restoration Urban Ministries, as these groups were forming.
Today, CUAP is still going strong. Two programs that began under CUAP, Girl Scout Troop 429 and MYS (Mentoring Young Sisters), have recently passed into independence. CUAP has furthermore maintained its focus areas through its longstanding committees in the areas of Delinquency Prevention, Public Housing, Parent and Student Advocacy, Community Communication, and Grant Collaboration. CUAP is currently in the process of spearheading AYD (Advancing Youth Development) training for youth workers in the Champaign-Urbana area.