Innovative Program to Support Oakwood & Vaughan At-Risk Youth Launched Amidst Pandemic
Community Service Agency to focus on providing opportunities and Counselling for at-risk young people starts online
Toronto – The City of Toronto, in partnership with the For Youth Initiative (FYI) took a step toward addressing the roots of youth violence in the Oakwood and Vaughan neighbourhood by launching a new program to support at-risk youth in the community. The program, which was initiated by Councillor Matlow in a motion approved by Council in December, will offer supports including mental health supports, employment training, and mentoring while offering group programming and targeted workshops. This is needed as the area has a higher proportion of residents that are Black, racialized and live in low-income households, and/or have lower education attainment rates.
“Community organizations and experts have been telling us for years that providing safe, supportive programs for at-risk youth is one of the best ways to meaningfully curb gang violence, change lives and create safer communities,” said Josh Matlow, Councillor for Toronto- St. Paul’s. “While I look forward to a physical space for Oakwood & Vaughan youth, it is vitally important that we adapt now to offer needed supports.”
FYI is a multi-service youth serving agency that has been located in York-South Weston (YSW) for 25 years. They began the Reintegrating the Socially Excluded Program (R.I.S.E. Program) 6 years ago in response to community need for support for youth experiencing conflict with the justice system. They use a trauma-informed and person-centred approach to working with youth which takes into account their experiences with racism, marginalization, and other contributing factors to justice involvement. They have developed extremely effective outreach strategies to connect with youth experiencing marginalization through our relationships with nearby high schools, community partners, and community members.
“For the past 25 years, FYI has been committed to meeting youth where they are and supporting them to get where they want to be,” said Shaneeza Nazseer Ally, Executive Director, FYI. “We use a person-centered case management approach to our work and serve primarily Black, racialized and newcomer youth, providing the mentorship and resources they need to thrive. We are excited at the opportunity to reach out and engage Oakwood-Vaughan youth in our virtual programming right away and in-person in the near future”
FYI Oakwood and Vaughan will:
- Deliver programs through a combination of virtual and in-person activities depending on public health and safety measures. The program will incorporate two components:
- Individual case management support (ongoing as needed for each youth)
- Group programming and workshops
- Case Leads are available for individual support 10am-6pm and programs are typically run 4pm-6pm Monday through Friday.
- Depending on community needs and the increase in virtual programming, FYI will expand and adjust those hours to include later programming and weekend availability.
- Outreach will be targeted to YSW and the Oakwood and Vaughan area specifically. Virtual programming will have no limit as to the number of participants.
- FYI will expand their team by two dedicated FTE case workers to provide support to youth in Oakwood and Vaughan.
- One FTE will be dedicated to extending settlement and high school educational and leadership programming to Oakwood and Vaughan
- The second FTE case worker will be focused on connecting out of school/mature youth to post-secondary education, employment and training;
- Youth Justice Staff would provide in-kind support to the Oakwood and Vaughan site based on a referral basis.
FYI will be immediately hiring two new staff for the Oakwood and Vaughan program. In the interim, by end of January, current FYI staff will begin to outreach and provide virtual support and programming in the community. By end of February, FYI is hoping to be able to have covid-safe 1:1 and group programming specific to this community