Streetreach Offers Protective Hand To Sexually Exploited Youth: Mackintosh

Canadian-first Initiative Hits Streets, Specialized Beds for Victims to Increase by 150 per cent

StreetReach Winnipeg is expanding and strengthening the safety net for youth who have been sexually exploited or who are at high risk of being victimized, Family Services and Housing Minister Gord Mackintosh announced today.“We are in a constant race to keep at-risk youths out of the clutches of sexual predators and street gangs,” Mackintosh said. “StreetReach is building a team of up to 25 specially trained professionals and co-ordinating the work of 22 organizations who will give vulnerable youth a real chance to receive the care and safety that every person deserves.”

A first in Canada, StreetReach builds on the hard work of existing social agencies and outreach workers, the minister said. Funded by $660,000 in new resources for more staffing and a co‑ordinator, StreetReach is a key component of Tracia’s Trust, the province’s $2.4-million strategy to combat child sexual exploitation.

The StreetReach team will be based in downtown Winnipeg and will share information among social agencies and law enforcement, and co-ordinate strategies to identify and safeguard victimized youth.

Among the tools to be used by StreetReach will be better geographic coverage, extended time of outreach, regular case planning with multiple service providers and co-ordinated two-way radios that will allow outreach workers to respond quickly and safely to developing situations.

A revised tool for recording suspects will be used to protect youth and assist law enforcement in gathering the evidence needed to hunt down and prosecute predators. This suspect tracking system has already helped locate and shut down drug houses and other locations that lure vulnerable youth, the minister said.

“A critical foundation of StreetReach will be the development of protocols to create an efficient working relationship among service providers including child-welfare agencies, health-care agencies, mental-health agencies and law enforcement,” said Mackintosh. “We are increasing the number of specialized beds for victims of sexual exploitation in Winnipeg to 55 from 22 and are also working on a remote community‑based healing centre.”

StreetReach North, based in Thompson, is also being developed in partnership with a northern advisory committee composed of the RCMP, and child welfare and community organizations. The StreetReach North team will operate under a model closely resembling the StreetReach Winnipeg team, Mackintosh said.

“Because we know that children are sexually exploited and trafficked throughout the province, both teams will work in a close partnership to co-ordinate interventions for victims.”

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