Gang recruitment has been undermined’, but residents continue to struggle
Gang recruitment has been “undermined and is ripe for replacement”, according to the social charity Family Centre. But many residents continue to struggle to meet ends meet.
Executive director Martha Dismont also told the Hamilton Rotary Club that the centre had seen a ten percent spike in families at “the highest level of crisis” seeking help.
“The Island’s gang-recruiting infrastructure hasn’t yet become obsolete — but it has been undermined, and is ripe for replacement, if we can offer young people attractive options and a sense of belonging,” she said.
Giving a guardedly upbeat assessment, Ms Dismont said that cooperation among the Island’s service providers was “way up compared to just a couple of years ago”, and called the economic recession “an omen asking us to address our many unaddressed problems”.
“More adults are packing groceries and working odd jobs with no safety net,” Ms Dismont told Rotarians.
“As seen by my staff, many young people continue to struggle in our public education system.
“Unskilled entry into the workplace is no longer a reasonable expectation for young people trying to do better than their parents.
“Retirement has become an unattainable dream for many of our elders. These economic stressors are connected to historic inequalities and unaddressed trauma with deep roots that keep some families from making any progress.”
The disparity between “haves and have-nots” is rapidly widening, she added.
“The unemployment rate has dropped recently but the question is whether a cross-section of the community is finding work, or just those who are more strongly skilled, or those who know someone in the industry.”
In a nod to recent developments, Ms Dismont expressed scepticism on the Island’s “increased gaming expectations” — telling Rotarians she expected to meet with Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell to discuss its potential social impact.
“As desperate as we are to strengthen this economy and develop new jobs for our residents, I question whether we have demonstrated a propensity to manage increased addictions and maladaptive behaviour sufficiently to risk going down this road,” Ms Dismont said. “I stand to be convinced.”
She also questioned whether Bermuda’s moves toward decriminalising possession of small amounts of cannabis might be taken by young people as an endorsement of drug use.
Listing off figures from the last year at Family Centre, Ms Dismont said that 351 children and families had been given training and advocacy services.
The centre is backing 39 young people through its Youth Leadership Programme, and will offer therapeutic support up to their graduation from high school.
Ms Dismont also reported that during Family Centre’s first year of partnership with a local middle school, “their suspension rate dropped from 107 to 38 — and has stayed down”.
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