10/11/2012 05:46 EDT | Updated 12/11/2012 05:12 EST

High-risk youth to benefit from additional funds for youth crime gang project

CALGARY - A Calgary program aimed at preventing immigrant youth from joining gangs and helping those already involved get out has received a financial boost from the federal government.

The Effective Community Response to Immigrant Youth Gang Crime Project is run by the Centre for Newcomers Society of Calgary. It will receive an additional $300,000 from Ottawa over nine months bringing total funding to $1.56 million.

The program has already helped between 60 and 90 high-risk youth, said Francis Boakye, manager of programs and community relations.

Boakye said young immigrants face hurdles when they arrive in Canada.

"Immigrant youth face numerous challenges including being new to Canada and learning to adjust to new ways of life while adjusting to all the rules," said Boakye at a Calgary news conference Thursday.

"Some bring bruised and scarred memories, some are isolated, others are traumatized. All are seeking to understand who they are and where they belong."

The program provides one-on-one counselling sessions to young people and helps them learn to build relationship skills. They also receive employment skills training and engage in social activities.

"Canadians have made it clear that they want us to take action to keep our streets and communities safe," said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who was on hand for the announcement.

"We also know a balanced approach is the best way to reduce crime which is why we're committed to supporting crime prevention efforts — particularly those that are aimed at youth."

The minister said the government funded 138 community crime prevention projects in 2011 helping 16,000 youth considered "at-risk."