Federal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan speaks to a crowd of dozens of parents at a fundraiser event for the In It Together program, which lost its federal funding, likely at least until April, on Sunday. (Submitted photo)

De-funded Abbotsford anti-gang program gains $100,000 commitment

In It Together previously forced to wait-list referrals and close 100 case files, despite $15k fundraiser

The United Way has committed $100,000 to an Abbotsford anti-gang program that lost its federal funding early this week, just a few days after concerned parents raised over $15,000 for the program.

The United Way of the Lower Mainland announced the funding Thursday morning in Burnaby for the In It Together program in Abbotsford, which provides supports for youth in gangs or at-risk of joining gangs.

“United Way’s commitment means we did not have to close our doors this weekend,” said Alison Gutrath, In It Together community co-ordinator, in a news release following the United Way announcement. “This investment will ensure youth at risk of gang involvement — and their families — get the support they need, while we continue to seek additional supports to keep our program operating during our funding gap.”

RELATED: Abbotsford anti-gang youth program losing vital funding

In an interview earlier in the week, Gutrath said the program was going to run on private donations, which she said are typically month-to-month and unstable for providing a consistent program. Gutrath estimated the program had to wait-list “well over a dozen” new referrals and has had to close dozens more cases ahead of the funding cut over last weekend.

“Limited capacity to the point where it’s like we’re not able to take new clients; they’re just doing follow-up for clients they had to close that still could use some support,” Gutrath said.

“We had over 100 youth that we closed over the summer. … I know that there is a number of youth — at least 40 — within our program who really should not have been closed at all.”

According to the joint United Way-In It Together news release, 427 participants aged 12-30 since April 2014 showed a 95 per cent engagement rate, becoming involved in the program for the long term. And of those in the program, officials estimate a 54 per cent decrease in total risk scores after 20 months.

RELATED: Local gang prevention worker speaks at national conference

And the issue of gangs has been pressing in the Abbotsford area, which together with Mission, was home to the second highest crime rate in Canada last year in an enduring Lower Mainland gang conflict. Recently, three homicides have been reported in as many months.

That includes the death of 19-year-old Varinderpal Gill, known to be affiliated with local gangs, Wednesday night, less than 24 hours before the funding announcement.

Though staff continued to follow up with youth from the program, Gutrath said before Thursday’s announcement that the bulk of the funding is coming from private donations, such as Sunday’s event.

RELATED: Funding is runningout for Abbotsford gang-prevention program

“But it’s really a month-to-month basis at this point, and that is very difficult. That is not best practice. That is not a way of creating a safer community, that’s not a good way of really supporting youth ongoing and really increasing public safety in our community,” Gutrath said.

“Our hope was that government would find an alternative interim source for funding, and that hasn’t come through,” Gutrath said, adding that the potential funding for April won’t be confirmed — or denied — until likely November or early December.

Gutrath said In It Together has had meetings with provincial Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and federal Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair, as well as communications with federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. But the group still has yet to gain commitments from the federal government on funding.

Report an error or send us your tips, photos and video.

Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

Send Dustin an email.
Like the Abbotsford News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Angler reels in monster bass at Mill Lake Park

Jayden Kalmbach had been trying to land a prize bass for months at Abbotsford’s urban lake.

Teen who fires airsoft pistol into sports field prompts large police response

Takedown occurs Monday night on Trethewey Street in Abbotsford

Make a Difference auction raises $269,000 for Foodgrains Bank

Event at McClary’s Stockyard in Abbotsford crushes previous record

Your daily commute and weather forecast: Mar. 26, 2019

Risk of thunderstorms this morning, but clearing skies for a sunny Wednesday

VIDEO: 13-year-old killed in B.C. crash that involved five kids

The children range in age from six to 17.

MPs denounce leaked reports of Trudeau-JWR clash over Supreme Court pick

Opposition MPs called the leaks an act of desperation meant to smear Wilson-Raybould

Study says B.C.’s housing policies mean drug users can be targeted for eviction

The study involves 50 people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

VIDEO: Homicide team called in after three killed in Surrey car crash

Investigators ask public to come forward with information, dashcam video

Coroner’s inquest announced for Victoria teen’s overdose death

Elliot Eurchuk was 16 years old when he died of an opioid overdose at his Oak Bay home

UPDATED: Sailings resume after BC Ferries boat hits Langdale terminal

The Queen of Surrey is stuck on the dock, causing delays to Horseshoe Bay trips

Eviction halted for B.C. woman deemed ‘too young’ for seniors’ home

Zoe Nagler, 46, had been given notice after living in the seniors complex in Comox for six years

B.C. MLAs call for no caps, no boundaries for ride hailing drivers

Minister Claire Trevena says Class 4 licence requirement will stay

Study: Why Canadian police should have a dedicated animal cruelty unit

People view fighting animal cruelty as a public responsibility

Most Read