The issue of youth gangs and violence will be discussed at an open meeting Thursday, June 18 in Williams Lake.
Pat and Erin Graham, who run Guardian Youth at Risk and Family Services in the lakecity, have organized the meeting.
“We called a meeting last month with Shan Stump-William who runs Changing Directions in Support of Aboriginal Youth and we invited city council, the RCMP, the mayor, the legal system, social workers and the general public,” Pat said.
“We hope this second meeting will produce more answers on how to deal with gang problems in Williams Lake.”
Through their business, the Grahams work on the rehabilitation of gang members, street kids or foster kids, any children in need of having a life change, Pat said, noting he was drawn to work with youth because of his own background.
“I’m an ex gang banger myself,” he said.
“I changed my life quite a few years ago and started working and helping with youth around me to make changes in their lives.”
His training is the fact he’s “been there done that,” he said.
“In so many ways, even though I am rehabilitated, I’m one of these youths. We also take in youth at-risk in our home if they are contracted to us and that’s 24-hour care. We have youth in our care right now.”
Working with her husband has been quite a unique experience, Erin said.
“It has been interesting finding out what’s really bothering the young people who are getting into so much trouble.”
Gang violence touches everyone, she added.
“It has to be brought under a certain amount of control so the community isn’t at risk all the time,” she said.
The Grahams moved to Williams Lake from Prince George last October to be closer to family and make some life changes, Erin added.
“We also saw there was a need here for a youth centre for certain youth. I think that’s a big thing in each community. You really have to start with the kids and ask them what they need,” Erin said.
Mayor Walt Cobb said he and some members of council attended the first meeting and will be at the meeting Thursday.
“It is an ad-hoc committee at the beginning stages of trying to figure out a different way to deal with gangs and youth and hopefully more youth won’t get involved with gangs,” said Cobb. “What we’re doing now doesn’t seem to be working so we are brainstorming for alternatives.”
The meeting will take place in the Rick Hansen Boardroom at city hall from 2 to 3:30 p.m.