GRASP: Gang Rescue and Support Project

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This year ORFL decided to support GRASP. GRASP is a peer-run gang rescue and support project for youth ages 14 to 24. GRASP has an intervention program that works with youth who are at-risk of gang involvement or active in gangs and youth with substance abuse issues. It also helps the families of gang victims and serves as a youth advocate. It was founded in 1991 and is run by ex-gang members who broke free from the gang life and turned their lives around. The tipping point for the founder was after a drive-by shooting resulting in the death of a teen. 

This year GRASP has served 1,162 youth. They are located in Denver Colorado. Below are some services they offer and the staff who the run services and a description of the services. 

Daniel runs GRASP Enterprise and Job Training Academy. The Job training Academy is a 7-week course that trains 17 youth. They design and implement a business plan. They provide a paid internship and on the job training. They have one person who runs the enterprise which is a silk screen shop. GRASP Enterprises has worked with youth in Denver for over 29 years and it was actually Father Greg Boyle from Homeboy Industries who recommended silkscreen and embroidery shop as the best social enterprise to start to train youth. 

Jerry Morgan runs At-Risk Intervention and Mentoring (AIM), it has been running for 15 years. It targets youth between 10 and 24 who arrive at the hospital emergency department after a traumatic injury. GRASP will meet youth at the hospital bedside and give them resources and outreach to guide them towards changing their life style. They provide one-on-one mentoring and build longer term plans to change the at-risk behaviours. They have built a solid network to support youth and today serve 625 youth through their AIM Program. They serve youth at two hospitals. However, their network reaches 6 hospitals, anytime there is a traumatic injury the medical staff will inform GRASP staff and they will respond. Recently the city council granted GRASP with two extra staff members allowing them to serve 60 extra people. The reason they also have this program is many people of colour do not feel they are properly served or treated equally at hospitals. GRASP staff members help bridge this gap. 

Felipe runs Joven Noble which youth rites of passage that focuses on character development. This program is to bring self-worth and wellness. GRASP wants to end the cycle of violence. Joven Nobles aims to be “rites of passage” and build character. Many of the current youths’ rites of passage is going to jail, they want to change this and give a new meaning to “rites of passage”. They want the males to have positive attributes and develop positive self-worth and value. This program is every Thursday night.  

The girls youth project is called Xinachitli, it is a female rites of passage programme, it is an indigenous, culturally based female rites. They address issues such as prevention of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, relationship violence, gang violence and school dropout. 

Felipe also runs a support/healing circle program. This is a safe space for youth. It is a support project, peer to peer, where staff and former gang members meet in informal educational groups to talk about issues facing youth in gangs and in their personal lives. They also hold interventions. Youth can join these groups at any time and they stay for 10 to 12 weeks typically. 

Finally, Felipe has a project that teaches youth they have gifts to give. The validate the youth. He also runs courts & communities. He runs Go and Co, which is a new residents involuntary displacement program. Many neighbourhoods have new residents, these residents don’t like how the old residents have been using the community property, such as community park. Go and Co has youth mediators who try to sort out the problems between residents so the police don’t need to get involved. So far there are 4 community connectors. 

GRASP also runs a tattoo removal program. Youth are allowed to get their gang related tattoos removed that are visible when you wear a t-shirt. However, if they have large gang related body tattoos they are also permitted to remove these. In order for these youth to earn/participate this service, they have to complete 15hrs of community service. 

Barrio Unity Mural program, GRASP work with communities to replace graffiti in their local area with a community lead art peace. The community lead art peace is a joint effort together with the youth of the community and the community for them all to enjoy together. This is supposed to be uplifting and tell a story of the community. 

These are all the services GRASP offers to its community. We decided to support them with general funding to help them to continue doing their good work. To find out more about GRASP here is their website