In 2002 two young men in Saskatoon asked a humble priest who was working with at-risk youth and active members in prison and on the street, “how do we leave the gang life?” Father Andre Poilievre’s response was honest and straightforward, “I don’t know, but we will figure it out together”. It was the beginning of something much larger than the three of them ever imagined. Eventually many others would follow in their footsteps.
STR8 UP and Judgment
Most STR8UP members have struggled with feelings of unworthiness. Sometimes it can be hard to believe that you are deserving of a good life, that you are deserving of love. STR8UP members support each other as they discover and celebrate their self-worth. They help each other to see that they are worthy, that they are deserving, that there is a good person in all of us.
The Beginning | 1990s
Father Andre is lead Chaplain at the Saskatoon Correctional Center. Two active gang members who had participated in community outreach presentations with Andre expressed their desire to leave their gangs and wanted support from him as they worked to change their lives. This is how STR8UP began, with Andre, and a growing number of men and women who relied on him for support, counseling and a community connection.
Building Connections | 2002
Andre retires from the Saskatoon Correctional Center but continues doing community presentations and involves STR8UP members by asking them to share their stories and experiences with the community.
Developing a vision | 2007
Father Andre meets Stan Tu’inkuafe, then a youth worker with the John Howard Society. Together they developed the goals and conditions for STR8UP Membership and the organization’s Visions and Goals. STR8UP becomes an outreach program under the umbrella of the John Howard Society.
We're growing | 2014
STR8UP incorporates as our own non-profit and registers Canadian Charity. This enables us to expand our outreach services, introduce new programs, provide advocacy and support in correctional facilities and courtroom, and connect members with other community supports and resources.
Where to go from here | 2018
STR8UP is working toward a province-wide, community-based gang strategy to help address the needs of individuals and communities that are impacted by gangs in Saskatchewan. In 2018, we organized the Provincial Gang Strategy Forum that was followed by phase I and II reports.
We're growing again | 2019
STR8UP partners with the Government of Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice Corrections and Policing to undertake the Gang Violence Reduction Strategy – Community Intervention Model program and offer supports and programming to empower participants to become included and valued members of their communities.
New office opens | 2020
STR8UP faces the global pandemic and adjusts supports and services to meet the needs of our members and participants. The GVRS-CIM project is rolled out and a new STR8UP office in Prince Albert is opened in March. STR8UP opens our first Transitional Housing for individuals leaving the correctional and addictions facilities into homelessness.
Brighter days ahead | 2022
STR8UP continues to grow in its ability to provide programs and supports to participants and members. GVRS-CIM is in the final year of the pilot project and will meet, if not exceed, many of the project’s identified outcomes. Transitional Housing has grown to 15 suites at two locations, and the program has a waiting list of individuals wanting to join. Community Outreach continues to provide supports to members and remains the foundation of STR8UP and the work we do.