THE provincial government has granted $75,000 to Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) to help South Asian female youth who are at high risk of becoming involved in criminal activity or those who are currently involved in youth crime or gang activity.
The initiative will help local South Asian females aged 12-22 who are trafficking drugs or have friends, partners or family members involved in gangs. In addition to one-on-one case management, counselling and group work with the youth, the staff will reach out to family members with education and support services.
“Women face unique risks in gang involvement,” said Deepak Purewal, a youth outreach worker at ACS. “They may end up being sexually exploited or targeted by rival gangs because of their relationship with a gang member.”
The Enhancing Crime Prevention with South Asian Youth project will run under the existing In It Together program at ACS which works to interrupt the flow of young people into gangs. The money will fund three staff members including Purewal’s full-time position and a part-time curriculum developer.
A third staff member will work as a mentor facilitator to match at-risk youth with positive volunteer mentors. Previously, the In It Together staff did not have the resources to find, screen and train potential mentors.
“We are seeing more at-risk females than expected,” said Alison Gutrath, community coordinator of In It Together. “We’re grateful for this funding to help us continue to address the issue of youth in gangs from all angles.
Youth previously supported by outreach workers at In It Together have seen improvements such as increased legitimate employment, reduced family conflict and less contact and relationships with criminally involved peers.
In total, nearly $6.5 million in grants from civil and criminal forfeiture funding were awarded to programs that help women escaping violence and other crime prevention initiatives. ACS was also granted $19,987 for the Stop Exploiting Youth program and $11,805 for a Self-Discovery Support Group for South Asian Women experiencing domestic violence.
(Write-up and photos by Abbotsford Community Services)