TORONTO — JVS Toronto wants at-risk youth living in Toronto’s impoverished Gabian Way neighbourhood – located in the Eglinton Avenue West and Caledonia Road area – to know that the Jewish community is there to help.
Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and JVS Toronto executive director Karen Goldenberg. [Stephanie Lake photo]
The non-profit agency has been using a $298,584 grant from the federal government to effect change in the city by quietly implementing a three-year pilot project called Circles of Success, which aims to find the best ways to stem youth crime.
The funding covers the length of the project, which began in April 2008 and ends March 31, 2011.
“Crime is high in the Gabian Way. The drop-out rate is high. Murders happen there. We believe in investing in this community… this is tikkun olam,” Karen Goldenberg, executive director of JVS Toronto, told The CJN.
“We want [these neighbourhoods] to know the Jewish community cares about everybody.”
In a joint announcement last week at JVS Toronto’s head office, Goldenberg and Vic Toews, the federal minister of public safety, highlighted the ongoing government-sponsored program.
Circles of Success focuses on giving employment training, conflict resolution training and arts-based programming to at-risk young people “to promote positive behaviours, volunteerism, and connectedness to their community, all of which will help to create strong and healthy neighbourhoods that are resistant to crime,” Toews said.
Goldenberg said the project is providing participants “with positive and creative alternatives” to reach their potential.
“We know that, with the right kind of support and empowerment, youth in Gabian Way can and will get jobs and contribute to their community and to Toronto. We believe that we can help youth connect with their dreams and reach their personal goals,” she said.
JVS Toronto received the funding after applying to the Ministry of Public Safety’s National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS), which the ministry gives $40 million annually and describes as a “funding support mechanism for selected projects that help prevent crime and increase knowledge about what works in crime prevention.”
Asked how the funding total for JVS Toronto was reached, Toews said organizations submit their own cost breakdowns on their applications to the NCPS.
“The [NCPS] funding usually only covers things like infrastructure and salary costs for a project,” he said.
Toews said the government’s aim is to try to help “young people to find the right path” and the JVS program fits this mandate.
“Despite the fact we take a hard line on crime, our government believes very strongly that if we can reach out to young people and provide them with skills that will keep them out of a life of crime, that’s something we need to do,” he added.
Jewish Vocational Services Toronto was founded in 1947 to help Holocaust survivors find employment in Canada and establish new lives. It now provides services to more than 23,000 people each year in the Toronto area.