Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/2/2012 (3075 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The head of a West End community group says youth need a safe place to go -- around the clock -- to escape the lure of gangs.
Jamil Mahmood, executive director of the Spence Neighbourhood Association, was one of about 125 people at the Aboriginal Centre on Wednesday for a meeting of members of the Gang Action Interagency Network (GAIN).
The meeting was scheduled to discuss specific ways of dealing with the complex social issue of why kids join gangs.
Mahmood said kids his organization works with are susceptible to joining gangs, so having resources available 24 hours a day would help keep them from making those bad choices.
"Gangs operate from like 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. ...prostitution, drug trade, partying, whatever other illegal activity, it's happening (during) those hours," said Mahmood.
"Not a ton of it is happening during the day time."
He said the drop-in centre at the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre closes at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.
"So from 10 p.m. until school starts, there's nothing available for kids in our neighbourhood," said Mahmood.
"The closest place is Rossbrook House, they're only 24 hours on weekends."
Rossbrook House, located on Ross Avenue, closes at midnight Monday to Thursday.
Mahmood said the event Wednesday was about "developing tangible projects" that will be taken to different levels of government and charitable groups for funding.
"If we don't have 24-hour drop-ins, then they're going to have to deal with the gang problem forever," he said.
"Because we can't be on the street when kids are working, then how can we expect to solve the problem?"
Alternate ways of providing round-the-clock support could be safe houses for kids who are exiting gangs, said Mahmood.
However, Mahmood said the problem won't be solved simply by "just one 24-hour drop-in in our neighbourhood."
"It's about a collaborative network of resources 24 hours a day," he said.
Tammy Christensen, executive director of the Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre, said getting involved in gangs is a "long process."
Ndinawe runs a drop-in on Selkirk Avenue and also has an emergency shelter with 16 beds where youths can go.
"It's, a lot of times, based on a basic need," said Christensen.
"Basic needs are not being met, whether it's housing, whether it's food, whether it's just that connection to other people," she said.
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