Six programs working to keep youth out of gang life across B.C. are set to receive more than $2.6 million in new funding from the province.
The money comes at a crucial time for at least one of the programs, which was in danger of shutting down in Abbotsford as its previous federal grant money ran out in September.
B.C.'s Ministry of Public Safety announced the funding on Tuesday, saying the following programs would receive the following amounts over three years:
- The Abbotsford Community Services Society's Abbotsford In It Together: Supporting Youth Involved in Gang Activity program: $977,966.
- The Abbotsford Community Services Society's Enhancing Gang Prevention and Intervention Programming with South Asian Youth: $225,000.
- The Cariboo-Chilcotin Child Development Centre Association's Future Forward program: $207,795.
- The Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre Society's Youth and Family Navigator program: $173,361.
- Pacific Centre Family Services Association's Crime Reduction and Exploitation Diversion program: $450,000.
- The B.C. School Superintendents Association's Support for High Risk, Vulnerable Youth in B.C. Communities program: $580,000.
Alison Gutrath, community co-ordinator for the In It Together program in Abbotsford, said the funding was desperately needed as operations have been scraping by on bridge funding and donations since funding from Ottawa ran out on Sept. 30, 2018.
"We are grateful to receive this funding to address such a critical need in our community. This will allow us to work with youth that are at highest risk at becoming gang involved and also those that are already current involved in gangs," Gutrath said over the phone on Monday.
In It Together staff say the program has helped over 1,500 people — at-risk youth and their parents — over the past five years through anti-gang diversion programs, mentoring, education and parenting resources.
During that time, the program has received about $1.2 million in funding from the federal goverment as part of a five-year project, which is the money that dried up at the end of September.
Gutrath said the program had to reduce services after that to remain open. She said the new support from B.C. will help, but at the equivalent of about $300,000 per year, it but doesn't fully replace the million-dollar gap left by the end of the deal with Ottawa.
"This is a vast reduction," Gutrath said. "So we won't be able to provide all the services that we had before, and yet, something is better than nothing."
Gutrath said there are currently about 85 youth in the program and about 25 on a wait-list.
All six of the prevention and intervention programs, including In It Together, work with youth across B.C. from age nine to 30.