Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz says he's hoping there will be money in the upcoming city operating budget for an anti-gang program, but says the city can't step in to replace federal funding for existing programs in jeopardy of being cut.
As part of his recent reelection campaign, Katz promised $150,000 to continue a youth program at the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre and $850,000 more to various other groups to extend programming and operating hours at various other North End and Inner-City groups.
But, he said, the city will not likely be in a position to help a number of similar programs currently facing an end to federal funding.
Crime prevention programs run by Winnipeg agencies including New Directions, the Spence Neighbourhood Association and Ndinawe may be forced to close if they don't find money to replace the federal contributions.
Katz said the city would love to be able to do more, but doesn't have the cash.
"I think those are quality programs that should continue. I think you can appreciate that we can't step in and fund everything," he said.
"We don't have the resources."
Jail costs 10 times as much: social worker
The New Directions program at risk of being shut down is called Oasis, and is targeted toward youth who come from war-torn African countries.
Upon arrival in Winnipeg, these youth sometimes become easy prey for recruitment by street gangs like the African Mafia and Mad Cowz. The notoriously violent gangs operate predominantly in the West End and core areas where they compete for control of the crack cocaine trade.
Liz Wolff of New Directions said Wednesday it costs $13,000 a year to keep one of the program's 35 boys in the program, where they receive counselling, access to educational resources and also help for their families.
Prison and jail, on the other hand, costs roughly 10 times as much, Wolff said, adding the program has boasted success in working with the boys.
An issue the programs face is political ennui when it comes to funding something not considered brand new and exciting, Wolff suggested.
"Every time we approach funding, the funders want something that is new and is maybe something more politically exciting than something that has already operated," she said.
"And if something is successful, why would we change it?"