A ‘freefall of hopelessness,’ that’s how Reverend Roger Minassian described Fresno in the early 90’s.
Since then his organization ‘Hope Now For Youth’ has been working to turn things around. The gang outreach program has helped thousands of young men.
It celebrated it’s 26th anniversary with a banquet on Thursday.
“I was always running the streets, out, never home. I was a real bad alcoholic, real real bad,” Franky Chavez said.
For Chavez, and many others in the room, life is not turning out how they anticipated.
“They have criminal records, high school dropouts, gang members — any of those three will qualify them for our program,” Minassian said.
Hope Now For Youth reaches out to at-risk men age 16-24.
“They’ve know the life of crime. They know the life of gangs and drugs and they want to try something different, and so we’re able to offer that. We’re able to offer an alternative,” Bryce Naylor the executive director said.
Participants are guided to find steady employment. It’s a first ‘real’ job for many.
And there are other firsts too.
“We want to become probably the first respectable male role model in their lives,” Minassian said.
“So they’ll come initially for the help of getting employment, but while they’re there I think they find that they get a family as well,” Naylor said.
Sheriff Margaret Mims said the group is a big help to law enforcement. “They actually go out into the streets. They go into the alleys, they go into the neighborhoods and they find young people that need their help that may want to get out of the gang activity,” she said.
It’s estimated 85-percent of those who finish the program retain their jobs.
“There’s hope. There’s hope if you really have faith. There’s hope and God really does have a plan for everybody,” Chavez said.
More information on this organization can be found here: