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Surrey’s anti-gang family program is here to stay, says City of Surrey

Council made program a part of city’s core programming, will fund it $1.5M annually

The Surrey Anti-Gang Family Empowerment Program (SAFE) is “not going anywhere,” Mayor Brenda Locke announced Thursday (Dec. 7).

The five-year $7.5-million federally funded pilot program was set to end this month but the city has stepped in.

“Council has decided to make SAFE a part of the city’s core programming and have committed to funding it to the tune of $1.5 million annually,” Locke said.

The program involves 10 partner agencies and 11 individual programs from “youth outreach and mentorship, caregiver education and family support, clinical counselling, and opportunities for youth enterprising and peer leadership.”

Representatives from the agencies gathered at city hall on Thursday (Dec. 7) for the announcement.

“Today, we are here again to celebrate the fifth year of SAFE and I’m pleased to share the program has not only met but far exceeded its expectations,” Locke said. “SAFE is on track to support 5,000 Surrey residents by the end of the year.

“Your work on SAFE is so much appreciated, and this groundbreaking program will continue,” Locke said.

Heather Lynch, senior manager of counselling and youth services at Options Community Services, said she often shares with colleagues why she believes the program is so successful.

“SAFE follows a foolproof design, for it was informed by evidence, engined with authentic partnership and supported by compassionate care teams,” Lynch said.

Some people in attendance seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when Locke made the announcement.

Richard Tatomir said he was equally excited and relieved as the announcement meant he could keep his job and ensure youth still had access to “high quality, publicly funded, low barrier trauma-informed counselling services.”

Tatomir is a SAFE clinical professor in counselling psychology at the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. He runs the clinical counselling practicum program for students from SFU and other universities, where the school district refers youth to them, Tatomir said.

He said he was grateful to the city “for making the right decision that I believe will continue to keep crime low and mental health high.”

Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Shawn Gill spoke about the RCMP’s family and youth resource support teams’ impact. They have helped more than 300 families and made 1,200 school visits, Gill said.

“The program was designed as early intervention for youth exhibiting risk factors for potential criminality concentrating on youth in grades six to eight,” Gill said. “The program helps enhance protective factors such as school attachment, positive role modelling, participating in extracurricular activities, and fostering healthy relationships.”

Other partners in SAFE, which works to disrupt “negative pathways to gang violence,” are DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the City of Surrey, Pacific Community Resources Society, Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society, Solid State Community Society and Surrey School District.

The program was awarded the 2023 “Excellence in Service Delivery” award by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM).

READ MORE: Surrey SAFE anti-gang family program awarded for its excellence

In April, the Federal Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino and his provincial counterpart Mike Farnworth announced federal funds for another Surrey anti-gang program.

The program, which is similar to SAFE, will involve after-school programming, youth outreach and mentorship, enhanced access to trauma counselling and new “culturally sensitive” services for youth in the city.

The new Surrey Youth Resiliency Program (SYRP) will receive $3.95 million from the Canadian government’s $250-million Building Safer Communities Fund, announced at Newton Recreation Centre in April.

READ MORE: Feds give Surrey nearly $4M to fight gang recruitment

READ MORE: Gang-prevention the aim of new Surrey Youth Resiliency Program (SYRP), with $3.95M in fed funds

For more information on the different programs, visit

– With Files from Tom Zytaruk and Tom Zillich

Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I cover health care, non-profits and social issues-related topics for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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