Initiated in 2018-2019, the Rapid Response to Gun Violence program was extended in 2021. The initial program affirmed the strong need for direct interventions and supports to youth who are experiencing the many forms of gun violence in north-west Toronto and specifically in the Jane Finch community. This extension built off the key successes of that program and enhanced the strongest supports. In particular, workshops on emotional intelligence and professionally coordinated youth mental health peer therapy were introduced as important strategies for addressing youth violence, engaging over 50 young people from the Jane and Finch community each month in emotional intelligence seminars.
As anecdotal reports were made to us regarding activities taking place within the community that both directly and indirectly impacted our youth, we were able to respond with a series of programmatic instruments to cater to the needs of community members. Our therapists conducted group therapy sessions bi-weekly with the same cohort of youth we aimed to support through our emotional intelligence seminars. This allowed our registrants to see that therapy need not be seen as a taboo and that it can provided a healthy and constructive outlet for struggling youth who are forced to navigate hostile environments.
Our plan evolved to encompass a rich exchange with the community to where we were not only providing mentorship to youth, emotional intelligence seminars, free therapeutic counselling, and groceries to community members, but creating opportunities for struggling youth to be peered with tutors to support them in their preparations for going back to school in the following year.