Skid Row CEO guest of youth justice

Youth and Justice Advocacy meets March 14 at Westview Secondary in Maple Ridge

The Skid Row CEO will be the guest speaker as the Ridge Meadows Youth and Justice Advocacy Association holds its annual general meeting on Thursday night.

Joe Roberts was drug-addicted and living under a bridge in 1989. He pulled himself out of that life, rose to become the CEO of the multimedia development company Mindware Design Communications, and in less than four years led the company through an 800 per cent increase in business. He earned his first $1 million before turning 35.

His amazing story has led to a lot of recognition. Roberts was named one of MacLean’s magazine’s 10 Canadians Who Make a Difference, and Business in Vancouver magazine’s 40 Under 40 Outstanding Business People. He is now an author and motivational speaker.

“It’s pretty amazing that you can be on the streets doing heroin, and later become a CEO,” said association coordinator Ranjit Kingra.

The association is a local non-profit organization that provides youth diversion programs for young people who are in conflict with the law. Their clients are referred to them by Crown Counsel and the RCMP for a restorative justice program designed to hold youth accountable, make amends to those harmed, but avoid the traditional justice system, where appropriate. It began in 1994 and was the first of its kind in the province.

The AGM will be held from 7-9 p.m. at Westview secondary (20905 Wicklund Ave.), and the general public is invited.

“We welcome people who want to support us, and who want to know more about what we’re doing,” said Kingra.

The association’s goal is to keep kids from going to jail.

Looking at the most recent available statistical analysis of the success of the program, from 2010, those referred to diversion will reoffend 54 per cent of the time.

What shows the success of the program is that of those who complete it, 80 per cent do not reoffend.

In 2012, there were 84 clients diverted away from the justice system, and approximately half of those were for theft. An equal number of boys and girls are referred, said Kingra.

After close to 20 years in operation, the program has served more than 2,000 youth.

• Tickets ($10) are available at the door or in advance at http://youthdiversion.eventbrite.ca. For more information, call Kingra at 604-467-5889 or email connect@youthdiversion.ca.