Coffee and Conversation with Crime Prevention Ottawa
On a warm, rainy Ottawa afternoon, Nancy Worsfold, Executive Director of Crime Prevention Ottawa (CPO), joined Ottawa Child and Youth Initiative (OCYI) staff for coffee and conversation about CPO and its relationship with OCYI.
Founded in 2005, Crime Prevention Ottawa is a city-funded municipal board with a mission, “To contribute to crime prevention and enhanced community safety and well-being in Ottawa through collaborative, evidence-informed initiatives.”
Governed and guided by a board of directors, appointed by city council, members include leadership from local institutions, who contribute to safety, and other community leaders.
The work of CPO is divided into the four pillars of gender-based violence, neighbourhoods, youth and most recently vulnerable adults. The youth pillar of CPO’s work has led to a partnership with OCYI that Worsfold describes as a good fit. “We have a stream of work and funding focussed on young people that is very complimentary with the broader population-based mandate of OCYI. I always try to situate our work in the larger context of healthy youth development because there are so many ways that we need to help our young people to flourish. We want to give every youth in our community the opportunity to thrive and to reach their potential.”
Crime Prevention Ottawa is also interested in working with OCYI to ensure a prominent place for children facing barriers which is why it funds part of the Critical Hours Task Group. Says Worsfold, “I see us as having a role in championing the interests of the most marginalized youth, at the OCYI table. For example, ensuring engagement with settlement agencies has been part of our funding contracts.”
Asked how society can reduce youth involvement in the criminal justice system, Worsfold explains that while there are different risk factors for getting into trouble with the law, the strongest protective factors are the presence of healthy relationships with peers, adults, empathy and hope. She noted that there are significant risk factors associated with social injustice, “Too many young people in our community experience barriers that make them feel like they don’t have a fair chance at succeeding. People also need to feel that they belong and exclusion contributes significantly to the problems.”
Worsfold shares that youth involvement in the criminal justice system can also stem from problematic substance use, including opioids, and actions frequently necessary to support habits. “There is such a need for better services and supports for healthier outcomes. We don’t have services that are widely accessible when people need them most, presented in a way that is understandable, meaningful and culturally relevant.”
A lack of affordable housing presents another huge challenge. “Housing is basic to any healthy youth development and there are way too many children in Ottawa’s homeless shelters. They can live in these shelters for months at a time which is very destabilizing. There are two family shelters and when they are full, families are sent to motels. It breaks my heart and is inexcusable in a wealthy city like ours.”
When asked to share a positive outcome of Crime Prevention Ottawa’s work, Worsfold describes the Man-Up program. “We invited Glen Canning, the father of Rehtaeh Parsons, to speak at an event on gender violence at Ottawa City Hall. He spoke of the importance of young men stepping up, which really resonated with a group of young men from Longfields-Davidson Heights high school.
Together with their teacher, they created a program called Man-Up which involved discussions about healthy masculinity and healthy relationships and organizing school-based activities to promote the prevention of sexual violence and dating violence. Before the pandemic it was running in 23 high schools in Ottawa.
"I am proud that CPO’s event inspired the youth. We have since supported Man-Up both financially and through various other supports over the years. I love this program as it brings together the challenges of gender-based violence and youth. I love that it grew naturally and that we were able to provide the support.”
Worsfold is happy that the Shine youth arts microgrants initiative will be running again this fall. “Last fall, when faced with a pandemic winter, we were concerned that closures of schools and programs were leaving too many youth without outlets and activities. We identified that while sports-based activities might be a challenge, arts-based activities might lend themselves better to social distancing. This led to us managing a small youth arts microgrants project called Shine, where youth ages 12-25 could apply and then use the funds to create a project to be showcased at a little festival. The work done by the youth was amazing and included videos, podcasts and visual arts. Arts-based programming is a very exciting thing to explore and we are looking forward to seeing and showcasing this year’s projects in May. Find out more by clicking on the links below!
Shine Youth Arts Microgrants: applications due November 26, 2021, be sure to check back later for more about the funded projects and future opportunities.
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