The new Gang Exit and Community Outreach Strategy project at the Calgary John Howard Society is getting team members excited for a new challenge and new opportunity.  

CJHS will be working with the province, alongside other John Howard Societies in Alberta, to provide support and assistance to individuals who are trying to get out of the gang lifestyle. 

The manager of the project will be working with three team coordinators.  

“We already had a sense that there were enough internal candidates that we didn’t even need to go external with the posting,” says the team manager, who is looking forward to working with individuals he has known for a long time, but has never had the opportunity to work with directly.

With a combined 50+ years of experience, the team has a lot of knowledge to bring to the project from each of their CJHS backgrounds, which includes housing, corrections, and education.

“I think we will all be able to use each other and build off the relationships that we have [from our previous programs],” says a GECOS coordinator.  

This will help them shape the project into what it needs to be.  

Being one of, if not the first, program to focus on gang exit in Alberta, the team is looking forward to getting somewhat creative with the development of the project and forging connections with stakeholders and the community.  

“My biggest focus is to work to help this population. There have been no options as far as people leaving gangs. I just want to give them options,” says a GECOS coordinator.  

Working with the province to implement support for this new demographic has the team believing it will improve CJHS’s presence within the community and bring a “greater level of connection between various JHS agencies across the province,” says the team manager.

This collaboration is an opportunity for growth, because there have been few projects involving multiple John Howard Societies working together.  

“I think it is an exciting opportunity to also work with the province and to sort of put John Howard on the map in terms of what we can do and how we can actually help community safety,” says a GECOS coordinator. 

Bringing people together within the Society is valuable to the team, but the impact they are hoping the project will have is on community safety and client lives.  

“Overall, we hope the program will help reduce recidivism, and provide our clients opportunities and resources to make positive changes in their lives,” says the team manager. “The level of impact we might be able to make in the area of gang related violence and other criminal activity remains to be seen, but any steps we can take in this direction are positive moves.”

This is where the excitement stems from – the ability to take on different challenges while still contributing towards fulfilling the CJHS mission statement, through the knowledge and perspectives of the team. 

“The greatest personal satisfaction I get out of [the work we do] is seeing a client succeed. I don’t think it matters what avenue it comes from,” says a GECOS coordinator. “Seeing them be able to move on from that or grow from it and make positive choices and the pride they are showing in doing that. That’s the fulfilment I get out of it.”