A front-line youth counsellor position will continue to serve Greater Victoria thanks to a cash injection from the province into the Pacific Centre Family Services Association.
The province announced the $130,000 investment Friday (June 9) to help the association expand its Crime Reduction and Exploitation Diversion and Mobile Youth Service Team programs by increasing staffing, and protect youth counsellor Mia Golden’s position, which was in danger of losing funding.
“PCFSA works to support vulnerable youth who are at high risk of participating in criminal activity, including gang involvement,” said Liz Nelson, executive director, PCFSA.
“As issues related to youth violence and exploitation continue to be on the rise in our community, these programs were at risk of ending due to funding. Thanks to this support from the province, we are able to continue these services for an additional year, while also providing us with the time needed to secure ongoing resources so these services can continue long term.”
While the association is based in Colwood, Golden and her Victoria Police Department partner Const. Gord Magee work with youth across Greater Victoria and southern Vancouver Island.
VicPD Chief Del Manak said MYST in particular is playing a key role in addressing concerns about gang activity targeting youth in the region, which he said has been a growing concern over the past few years.
“Many of our youth are being exploited. They are being exploited by adults, they are being exploited by other youth. So they need an avenue, a voice, to help advocate for what they need through a youth counsellor like Mia Golden,” said Manak. “This is meant to be proactive and it is meant to be preventative, so even before youth are being recruited into street gangs or other groups, we are able to make in roads and provide supports so they don’t go down that dangerous road.”
He said early intervention and proactive engagement are key pieces to reducing youth crime, and reducing the chances police will need to intervene.
“Usually the damage is already done by the time the police are called, so we want to invest upstream to make sure we are supporting youth with a better lifestyle so down the road they aren’t finding themselves having negative interactions with police.”
Speaking during the announcement, Golden said she and her team are out on the streets every day, in schools, and anywhere they feel they are needed, looking out for “predators” who are targeting youth.
“The work is intense, and sometimes heart-wrenching, but it is desperately needed,” said Golden. “Being able to make some positive changes in youth and families lives is why we do this work.”