Positive Alternative to Youth Gangs (PAYG)

Program snapshot

Age group: Adolescence (12-17)

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Gang-involved (and/or at risk); Visible minority/ethnic group; Youth in contact with law enforcement (and/or at risk)

Topic: Antisocial/deviant behaviours; Gang and/or related criminal activities

Setting: Urban area; Community-based setting; Recreational/sport-based setting; School-based

Location: Ontario

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 1

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention

Brief Description

The Positive Alternative to Youth Gangs (PAYG) program works with high risk, ethno-racial minority youth living in the Jane-Finch community of Toronto to prevent them from joining street gangs or getting into conflict with the law. The PAYG program brings together San Romanoway residents, local schools, and community partners to develop and implement in-school, after-school, summer, parent and community intervention programs.

The PAYG program is based on the Wraparound and the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership (YVRP) approachesFootnote1 and is centered on academic support; after school; community mobilization; family therapy; conflict resolution; leadership and youth development; skills training; mentoring – tutoring; parent training; school-based strategies; and truancy prevention. 


The main goals of the PAYG program are to:

  • Prevent high-risk minority youth from joining street gangs or coming into conflict with the law; and
  • Help youth exit their gangs safely.


The appropriate clientele for the PAYG program are minority youth between the ages of 11 and 14 who are at risk of joining gangs or being in conflict with the law, or who are already gang-involved in order to support their safe exit.

Participants are referred by community organizations, school officers, and police. To participate in the program, youth must be attending a participating school in the Jane-Finch community of Toronto, Ontario.

Core Components

The PAYG program consists of:

  • School-based group program: This component uses participatory learning methods to engage youth. Topics include self-esteem, violence, problem solving and conflict resolution, life skills and communication, gender roles, sexuality, bullying, racism and culture shock, drugs and alcohol, and family and community violence. It also addresses gang resistance strategies, gang exit strategies, sexual harassment, and mental health;
  • After school program: This component aims to build trust and rapport with students, help them advance academically, build self-esteem through culturally-based activities, develop a wide range of prosocial skills, and become involved in prosocial activities;
  • Summer program: This component provides educational, social-recreational, sport, and art activities to youth. Activities include life skills workshops centered on healthy living, an arts-based program with a different theme each week, sports, swimming, recreational activities, outings, and field trips;
  • Family support program: Parents and caregivers of the participants in the in-school group, after-school and summer programs are eligible for family support, although the primary focus is on parents whose children are in the intensive stream; and
  • Community program: Residents who are directly impacted by gang activities are invited to community forums. The objectives of this service include creating awareness in the community and among families of the dangers of becoming involved in gangs, and of the factors that place minority youth at risk. It also aims to identify prevention strategies and to build a community capacity to better address safety, crime, and gang issues.

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: The lead organization must have written policies regarding cultural competence, parent involvement, and client feedback mechanisms.
  • Partnerships: The success of the PAYG program depends on its many partnerships with the community’s schools and school boards. Parental involvement is also important. By engaging parents, the PAYG program is able to strengthen their capacity to keep their children gang-free, keep them attached to school, maintain their engagement in skill-building programs, and teach them effective parenting strategies.
  • Training and technical assistance: Staff must be trained in the Wraparound and the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership approaches.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: All materials needed to administer the PAYG program are provided by the lead organization.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy provided funding to implement the PAYG program in the Jane-Finch community of Toronto, Ontario between 2008 and 2011. The PAYG program was implemented by San Romanoway Revitalization Association.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, an outcome evaluation studyFootnote2 of the PAYG program was conducted from 2008 to 2011 by the San Romanoway Revitalization Association. The PAYG program was launched in two middle schools in Toronto’s Jane-Finch neighbourhood using a single group repeated measures design. Standardized survey instruments were employed, including pre-test/post-test interviews with program participants (6 months and 12 months after the program); parent questionnaires; and staff questionnaires.

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • Participants’ attitudes towards civic responsibility improved. Youth in the moderate risk category reported the most change, followed by those in the low risk category and those in the high risk category. The mean change scores were significantly different across the three risk categories (F(2,81) = 3.508, p = 0.035), suggesting that the program contributed to increasing prosocial attitudes.; and
  • Concerning the academic performance, there were mixed results with some favourable directional increases for certain grades, though overall, there was no significant change.

For more information, refer to the National Crime Prevention Centre’s (2014) publication.

Cost Information

Between 2007 and 2011, the cost per youth involved in the PAYG program was approximately $4,067.00 (CAD). This cost, however, varies in light of the three streams. It costs approximately $8, 083.98 (CAD) per intensive stream student, $ 4,945.77 (CAD) per contact stream student, and $182.27 (CAD) per parent (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2014).


National Crime Prevention Centre. (2014). The Achievers: Positive Alternatives to Youth Gangs (PAYG). Evaluation Summary. Ottawa, ON: Public Safety Canada. Available from: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/payg/index-eng.aspx

The San Romanoway Revitalization Association. (2011). The Achievers Program: Positive Alternatives to Youth Gangs. Final Evaluation Report. Submitted to the National Crime Prevention Centre, Public Safety Canada (Unpublished report).

For more information on this program, contact:

San Romanoway Revitalization Association
10 San Romanoway, Ground Floor, North Wing
North York, Ontario M3N 2Y2
Telephone: (416) 739-7949
Website:  http://srra.ca/

Record Entry Date - 2018-03-05
Record Updated On - 2018-04-23
  1. 1

    For more information on Wraparound and the YVRP, refer to the specific program descriptive sheets

  2. 2

    A process evaluation study of the program was also conducted through Public Safety Canada’s funding. For more information, communicate with the Research Division, Public Safety Canada.

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