Steering young people away from a life of street gangs and violence was the focus of an announcement in Saskatoon Friday morning.

The provincial government is giving $49,500 to the anti-gang organization STR8 UP to assist with its programming.

Minister of Corrections and Policing Christine Tell says it is not enough just to police gangs, there needs to be intervention too.

“Alongside intensive police action and enforcement to end violence and bring offenders to justice, we also need to match that with an equally intensive prevention strategy which includes gang exit support,” she says. “The key here is early intervention as well as offering a way out.”

Those involved with the organization say poverty, a lack of education and family breakdown are just some the reasons young people join a street gang.

Father Andre Poilievre, the founder of STR8 UP, says street gang life is one of darkness and self hate.

“Most of our members don’t love themselves,” he says. “You know, people that cut themselves and overdose and live a lifestyle just full of danger, they don’t care about themselves.”

Stacey Swampy was in and out of street gangs until he found STR8 UP about five years ago.

He says getting out of a gang can be difficult but the results of staying in are usually worse.

“Now that I think about it, if I stayed in, I’d probably be doing a life sentence or I’d probably be six feet under,” he says.

The investment will go directly to STR8 UP’s 10,000 Little Steps to Healing program.

Police estimate there are about 200 people involved in street gangs in Saskatoon.

The STR8 UP program has been in existence since the late 1990’s.