The community of North Preston sits just outside of Halifax and proudly boasts its unique history as the oldest and largest Black community in Canada, with residents tracing their roots back to the Black Loyalists and Jamaican Maroons. In the early 2010s the community saw an upsurge in crime and gun violence. With funding from Public Safety Canada, the Souls Strong program sought to address this issue by reducing risk factors in North Preston’s youth population. The RRC’s evaluation worked closely with management and staff in highlighting the strengths and challenges of the program, and offering recommendations for future program implementation.
Souls Strong was a community-based intervention program implemented by the Halifax Regional Municipality based on the ‘Wraparound’ and ‘Reclaiming our Youth at Risk’ intervention models. The program aimed at reducing risk factors associated with young people becoming involved in criminal and gang related activities, while increasing protective factors associated with enhancing community safety and youth development. The target population was young men 15-20 years old living in North Preston, Nova Scotia.
The evaluation ran from October 2013 to March 2018, and gauged the viability of Souls Strong as an intervention program that prevented youth gang membership, in terms of process, outcomes, and cost-effectiveness. The evaluation included a pre-, mid- and post-test, and a 6-month follow-up design using mixed-methods, and incorporated data from youth, their primary caregivers, program staff and key stakeholders. Given the lack of feasibility in developing a comparison group, the evaluation incorporated the use of the Most Significant Change technique in order to assess program attribution. This technique was centred on gathering staff and stakeholder’s opinions of what they felt had changed the most in their community and program youth since the advent of Souls Strong.