Gang program to be shut down

Youth gangs are a serious issue in growing urban communities. (Contributed photo)

Youth gangs are a serious issue in growing urban communities. (Contributed photo)

A regional pilot program targeted at youth gang prevention will be unable to continue its program past this year due to an inability to find funding.

The preventative program, called InREACH, began in 2009 as a three-year pilot program after receiving $3.8 million in non-renewable funding from the National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC).

Rohan Thompson, the project manager for inREACH, said that in anticipation of the end of the funding last March, financial support was sought and obtained from regional council to maintain the program until the end of 2013.

“The second thing that the short-term funding that the Region provided for us would allow us to do was to try and find other funding sources or other funding opportunities that would allow the project to keep going past December of this year,” he said.

Attempts to secure alternate funding, however, were unsuccessful.

As inREACH had been unable to return some of the money to the NCPC, due to what Thompson described as “efficiencies,” he hoped that some funding would be brought back into the program in order to find a long-term solution.

Unfortunately, the money had been reallocated.

Peter Braid, MP for Kitchener-Waterloo, expressed his support in a letter to the NCPC, in hopes that access could be gained to the lapsed funding.

Braid further sought to clarify that the inability of the program to continue was not a matter of funding being pulled or not renewed by the federal government.

“This was always meant to be a specific project for a fixed period of time. So renewal of the project was never an option. The reason that there was lapsed project funding is because the project was slow to get off the ground,” he explained.

Thompson affirmed, “They don’t do ongoing core funds, they do pilot projects. We were never debating that. What we were saying is that we’re not returning a lot of money, here are all the reasons.”

Attempts to secure funds through alternative federal and provincial revenue sources were unsuccessful. While many community partners have been involved, the financing options available at a local level were insufficient to keep inREACH functioning long-term.

“You sort of need deep pockets at the table first,” said Thompson, acknowledging the need to match the collaborative nature of the program with support from different levels of government and community actors.

“At the federal government level, there are competing funding priorities in a fixed envelope of funding and there remains support at the federal level for youth gang prevention. And perhaps other levels of government and other organizations need to determine if it’s a priority for them,” Braid added.

Thompson estimated that the program processed approximately 400 youth over its term. It’s difficult to determine what will happen to these at-risk youth following the end of the project.

He continued, “My fear is, and it’s not to fear-monger, that it will take a tragedy where a young person is hurt or an innocent person is hurt for our provincial and federal government to come back to the table and say ‘hey, maybe we need to do something about this issue.”

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