Souls Strong Project

Program snapshot

Age group: Adolescence (12-17); Young adult (18-24)

Gender: Male only

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

Topic: Aggressive/violent behaviours; Alcohol and/or drug use; Antisocial/deviant behaviours; Gang and/or related criminal activities

Setting: Urban area; Community-based setting

Location: Nova Scotia

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: In progress

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention; Tertiary crime prevention

Brief Description

The Souls Strong Project is a community-based intervention program implemented by the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). This program, which is based on the Wraparound approach,Footnote1 is aimed at reducing the risk factors associated with young people becoming involved in criminal and gang-related activities, while increasing protective factors associated with positive development.

The program is centered on academic support; community mobilization; conflict resolution; counselling and social work; family therapy; leadership and youth development; parent training; skills training; social emotional learning; substance prevention/treatment; and truancy prevention.

Goals

The main goals of the Souls Strong Project are to:

  • Reduce isolation, stresses, and negative rushes among youth at-risk of criminal/gang activity, drugs, antisocial behaviours, and violence;
  • Increase protective factors of self-reliance, resiliency, life and prosocial skills; and
  • Increase knowledge related to the Souls Strong Project in order for families and communities in at-risk areas to proactively respond to youth at-risk of joining gangs.

Clientele

The appropriate clientele for the Souls Strong Project are young men (African-Canadian) between the ages of 15 and 20 who are involved in or who are at high-risk of involvement with the criminal justice system.

Participants are referred to the Souls Strong Project by community leaders, family members, law enforcement officials, school officials, community service providers, and church elders.

To participate in the program, youth must have experienced violence, neglect, drug and/or alcohol abuse.

Core Components

The Souls Strong Project consists of:

  • Community capacity building and mobilization: Program assistants coordinate a community-based mentoring/support program that fosters crime prevention and intervention through community mobilization;
  • Case management: Case management teams and youth support teams work with youth to decrease their positive attitudes toward drugs, gangs, antisocial behaviours, and violence and increase their prosocial attitudes toward family, prosocial authority figures, adults, and peers;
  • Intergenerational activities/family support/healing and wellness: These activities include weekly bible studies for participants and their fathers, along with weekly leisure activities that foster healthy father-son relationships; and
  • Employment/academic support/skill development: These support and development activities provide youth with employment counselling, pre-placement and post-placement assistance, workshops, and seminars. These activities help increase youth’s interest in finding meaningful work and foster positive attitudes toward school and legal employment.

Implementation Information

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

  • Organizational requirements: The lead organization must ensure proper analysis of community needs and knowledge of existing services, resources, and organizations.
  • Partnerships: The success of the Souls Strong Project depends on its partnerships with family members and community-based organizations. In maintaining these partnerships, the program is able to keep up with African-Canadian traditions and facilitate a more effective, whole-system approach to crime prevention.
  • Training and technical assistance: Staff must be trained in the Wraparound approach.
  • Risk assessment tools: Souls Strong used a customized risk assessment tool made up of a variety of validated assessment tools such as the Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM-28), 4HSQ Risk Scale, Future Aspirations – Peer Leader Survey, Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) Prosocial Behaviour sub-scale, Attachment to Community Scale, Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure Scale, 4HSQ Delinquency Scale, 4HSQ Risk (substance use) Scale, Attitudes Towards Guns and Violence Scale, Attitude Towards Gangs Scale, Rutgers Teenage Risk and Prevention Questionnaire, etc.
  • Materials & resources: Limited information on this topic.

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 Souls Strong Project in Halifax (Nova Scotia) between 2013 and 2018. The program is being implemented by the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, an outcome evaluation study of Souls Strong was conducted between 2013 and 2018 by Resilience Research Centre – Evaluation and Training Institute.  A mixed methods approach, incorporating multi-series follow up design (pre-test, mid-point, post-test & 6-month follow-up) and most significant change stories was used to evaluate Souls Strong.

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • Participants assessed at intake and again upon exiting the program with qualitative interviews and the Souls Strong Assessment Measure did not report statistically significant changes in any of the following measures: gang activity, pro-social and life skill competences, factors associated with criminality, positive role models or sense of belonging.
  • However, when combining quantitative and qualitative data, the program appeared to have a positive impact on future aspirations as participants had an increased motivation to achieve.
  • Qualitative data suggested that many program participants were low- to medium-risk, and therefore had not engaged with gangs, substance use, or other violent and criminal activities prior to joining the program.  Moreover, no participant reported joining a gang/crew/squad between intake and program exit. 
  • While the evaluation was unable to demonstrate any change in criminality, this was the expected result of assessing the low- to medium-risk participants. The program may have been interrupting expected trajectories into riskier behaviours and delinquency.

Cost Information

Between October 1st, 2013 and December 21st, 2017, the total costs for the program  was $1,576,248.90 and the total average cost per participant was $47,765.12, based on the 33 participants enrolled in the program over the course of its implementation.

References

RRC – Evaluation and Training Institute (2018). Souls Strong Final Evaluation Report. Final Evaluation Report. Submitted to Public Safety Canada (Unpublished report).

For more information on this program, contact:

Halifax Regional Municipality
PO Box 1749
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3A5
Telephone: (902) 490-4309
Website: https://www.halifax.ca/recreation/programs-activities/youth-programs-services


Record Entry Date - 2018-03-12

  1. 1

    For more information on Wraparound, refer to the program descriptive sheet.

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