It won’t be an easy ride, but for a select few who are ready, a new program will give adults looking for a way out of gang life the tools they’ll need to find meaningful employment, build strong family and community connections and shake their gangster identity for good.
The $1M End Gang Life Gang Exit Pilot Program (Gang Exit Pilot) scraps the one-size-fit- all approach and helps participants leave gang life by creating personalized exit plans that address the circumstances that led to gang involvement, through counselling, mental health and substance abuse services. Each exit plan will also support access to employment, recognizing that a good job and opportunity to contribute to your community is a necessary and important path to a new life.
To help support the Gang Exit Pilot, $500K has been designated to expand the BladeRunners Program delivered through ACCESS and the Skilled Trades Employment Program (STEP) delivered through the BC Construction Association. These skills and trades training programs will help exiting gang members and recently released inmates gain the skills they need for jobs. The expansion of these programs will also assist youth transitioning out of care, Aboriginal people and people with disabilities.
The remaining $500K for the two-year Gang Exit Pilot will fund a range of services to support participants, as well as support the daily operations and evaluation of the program led by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia (CFSEU-BC) in partnership with the City of Surrey and other community partners.
Those interested in the program must demonstrate a strong motivation and serious commitment to exiting gang life and must pass an intake assessment through a dedicated project co-ordinator and outreach worker. If accepted, another key element of each participants' exit plan will focus on outreach to peers, family members and the broader community to build a support network to keep participants on track and keep them from going back.
The Gang Exit Pilot was developed in partnership with the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, CFSEU-BC, the City of Surrey, Surrey RCMP and the Surrey School District. This project complements work underway in the recently expanded $23M provincial Guns and Gangs Strategy.
The $500K investment to expand the BladeRunners and STEP programs is funded by the 2016-17 Employment Services and Supports (ESS) Rapid Response Fund, under the Canada-BC Job Fund. The goal of ESS is to help unemployed British Columbians who face barriers to employment and who are ineligible for employment insurance to enter or return to the workforce.
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Morris –
“Make no mistake, the Gang Exit Pilot is no easy ride and is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. This pilot program won’t save everyone and it’s not intended to, but for the select few who are ready, this is their second chance. It's my hope that, when we look back in two years, we will have developed a results-driven program that we can consider implementing provincewide.”
Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour Shirley Bond –
“The employment services and supports projects have helped many British Columbians in different regions gain the skills they need to enter or return to the workforce. We are pleased to be partners in the Gang Exit Pilot and to expand the BladeRunners and STEP programs to help support gang members, former inmates and others who face barriers to find employment. We know jobs are powerful and this is another example of how access to employment can and will change lives.”
City of Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner –
“Ending gang life is an important part of the work laid out in our new Public Safety Strategy and this joint initiative is a significant tool to help break the cycle of violence. The City of Surrey is proud to be a partner in the Gang Exit Pilot, and to those who are ready to turn their lives around for the better, this program is here to support you to make that positive change.”
Chief Officer of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of BC chief superintendent Kevin Hackett –
“The new End Gang Life Gang Exit Pilot builds on the success of our End Gang Life prevention and outreach work and takes it to the next level by creating personalized exit plans for each participant that work to break down barriers that often prevent them from a successful second chance. We look forward to the lessons learned from this pilot and to changing lives. At the end of the day that is what it is all about.”
To learn more about the End Gang Life program please visit: http://www.cfseu.bc.ca/end-gang-life/
To review the latest update on the provincial Guns and Gangs Strategy please visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/12673
To review the City of Surrey’s Public Safety Strategy please visit: http://www.surrey.ca/community/19149.aspx
To learn more about Bladerunners and ACCESS please visit: http://www.accessfutures.com/bladerunners/
To learn more about the Skilled Trades Employment Program (STEP) operated by the BC Construction Association please visit: http://www.stepbc.ca/