“We exist to save lives.” That is the cornerstone of the all-encompassing outreach and social service program Gang Alternative, Inc. (GA).
A faith-based community organization serving Miami, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, Gang Alternative creates positive community change that lasts by putting God first, training servant leaders and promoting good moral character, among other core values.
The organization’s success in 2021 stemmed from programs within their five major “Pillars of Service” that found creative ways to continue despite the global pandemic. And while the results are exceedingly positive, Gang Alternative is focused more on the individuals than the numbers. “We measure our organization’s success, not by the raw quantitative data. We measure it by the lives we’ve changed…. The lives we’ve saved,” said President and CEO Michael J. Nozile.
Last year, the organization served more than 8,000 individuals and nearly 4,000 households, with more than half of those helped being between the ages of 12 and 17. Under the Positive Youth Development pillar, Gang Alternative added four new programs, including various after-school services, summer camps, violence intervention, and drug use and abuse prevention. More than 70 youth were diverted from gang involvement and 2,000 others gained essential life skills.
Under the Workforce Development pillar, GA helped 76 people find employment. They helped reintegrate nearly 200 people released from jail or prison into the community with occupational skills training, legal support and job placement. Additionally, the organization helped 86 homeless veterans find affordable housing and work. Gang Alternative also supported women through job training in non-traditional careers like construction work through its EFFECT program.
While these jobs often provide stable employment and solid benefits, access to them has been limited for women historically. “I was referred to GA’s EFFECT by my case worker,” said EFFECT participant Lizette B. “At the time, I was homeless, I did not have my high school diploma, and was having difficulty finding a job. I now have stable housing, I am working towards my GED, and I have a more positive outlook on life and what I can accomplish.”
Other pillars like Family Strengthening also reported major success: 50 families received funds for emergency housing and food assistance while another 157 families were equipped with care coordination. Through those services, Gang Alternative provided healthy relationships education to 170 students and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy to 86 families.
The Community Upliftment and Partnerships pillar saw nearly 50 partnerships with local schools, 11 years of coalition building under the belt of GA’s Urban Partnership Drug Free Community Coalition, and two years of successfully leading collaborative action in Miami-Dade under the Partnership for Success Collaborative of Coalitions, among other achievements.
Regardless of which program participants are in, GA’s services often overlap as they adapt to each participant’s needs. The organization’s leaders and volunteers work tirelessly to provide all they can for their community’s success.
As for 2022, GA’s focus stays the same: saving lives.