Collaborative program will help Edmonton youth stay out of gangs
A collaborative program proposal, led by REACH Edmonton, has received federal funding for an initiative that will aim to keep high-risk youth out of gangs in Edmonton. WrapEd (Wrap = wraparound, Ed = Edmonton) is a partnership between The Africa Centre, Edmonton John Howard Society, Edmonton Police Services, Native Counselling Services of Alberta and YOUCAN Youth Services. This project is partially funded through the Government of Canada's National Crime Prevention Centre and will use the collective expertise of core and supporting organizations in the city to tackle the complexities of youth gangs. REACH Edmonton brought these diverse organizations together to collaborate in seeking the support, rather than each group submitting a proposal in competition with one another. This innovative approach build invaluable partnerships and collaborative relationships between various local groups with common goals, resulting in federal funding for the Edmonton-based program. "This collaboration just goes to show that we're doing something unique here in Edmonton," said Jan Fox, Executive Director of REACH Edmonton. "This program proves that collaboration between agencies is not only possible, but a successful way to do business. If these groups hadn't worked together, this funding might have gone to another city entirely." Programming will zero in on vulnerable youth facing multiple barriers, with a focus on up to 180 young people primarily from Aboriginal, immigrant and refugee communities. Participants will be Edmontonians between the ages of 12 and 17 who are most at risk of involvement with gangs. Youth who are engaged with gangs or showing risk factors associated with gang activity will be referred from police, partner agencies and other community agencies. Youth that enter the program will work with a youth worker from one of the partner agencies and will receive the help and support that they need. Support could take the form of addictions treatment, justice system support, family counselling and other services that each individual might need during his or her 18-month participation in WrapEd. "This program started operating October 1 of this year and we're expecting to see measurable results that indicate a reduction in youth gang criminal activity among the teens who participate," said Fox. "We're hoping to see a disengagement with gangs and a stronger connection between these teens and their culture as well as the Edmonton community at large."