April Message from Margo

We are entering an era of change at YESS as we come out of winter, out of some of the most intense realities of the pandemic, and after integrating the learnings of our 2018-2023 Strategic Plan and our work within the Youth Agency Collaboration.

Throughout our 43 years, YESS has embraced the spirit of evolution and continuous improvement to be able to provide youth with the help they need when they need it and where they need it. We have transformed from an overnight emergency shelter to being a collaborative partner in a community of youth care leveraging more than 30 youth agencies. 

In 2018, we created an in-house trauma and mental health support program with our Wellness Integration team of psychologists and support practitioners. In 2021, YESS restructured our overnight shelter program to 24/7 access. In 2023, we moved our daytime primary medical care clinic, navigation staff, and resources from the Armoury Resource Centre to our Whyte Ave building to share space with our 24/7 crisis intervention and stabilization program and reduce barriers to access for youth. 

And now, as of spring 2024, we will be focusing entirely on our new 24/7 intake and assessment programming to use our expertise in what we see in the urgent need for crisis support. Because of this focus on what we do best and our consolidation of 24/7 help and safe sleeping with our resource and health supports, we are closing our Shanoa’s Place supportive housing location as of April 1, 2024, and will return the Connaught Armoury location to the City of Edmonton later this year. 

None of these changes are a result of organizational emergencies, but rather a direct move towards a more strategic and intentional component of the larger Youth Agency Collaboration strategy for youth in crisis in our city and province. We have had these changes in mind for a long time and now, with a developed strategy and validating evidence, we are now in a place to make them a reality. 

One thing that has stayed constant over these 43 years is the impact of our community of support. Thank you so much for continuing to advocate for youth!

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Changes at YESS

YESS has been diligently working towards a new mission and vision for young people, aiming to create an environment where all young people have barrier-free access to the help they need when they need it and where they need it. Over the past seven years, we have engaged in extensive research and discussions with both youth and youth workers to better understand the needs and gaps in our system.

As part of the Youth Agency Collaboration—a group of more —we have co-developed a comprehensive strategy that not only addresses the needs of youth but also fills the gaps in our current system, paving the way for holistic wellness and measurable outcomes around life skills and wellbeing skills, rather than simply providing a list of services. A key component of this strategy is the establishment of community-based Youth Support Centres, which will offer 24/7 intake, crisis stabilization, and safe sleeping for youth 15-21, as well as daytime access to drop-in medical and mental health services, housing connections, and other resources for youth up to the age of 24. Our programs also support entry into the Youth Agency Collaboration continuum of complex care, should it be required. We will have more information about these centres and how they will support both young people and families in their communities in our May newsletter.

In alignment with our new strategic focus and commitment to excellence, we have made the decision to concentrate our efforts on what we do best. Consequently, we will be closing our supportive home program, Shanoa’s Place, shifting away from housing, and entrusting our expert partners in the Youth Agency Collaboration to continue their outstanding work in this area. We will also be moving out of the Connaught Armoury permanently, so all YESS programming will be located at our Whyte Ave building as the first YESS Youth Support Centre.

To facilitate this transition, we ceased accepting new youth for housing at Shanoa’s Place as of mid-February, with the goal of transitioning all current residents to one of our housing partners by March 31, 2024. All full-time and part-time Programs employees currently stationed at Shanoa’s Place were offered roles at our Whyte Ave location, where all YESS Programs and Facilities team members will be based starting April 1, 2024.

Additionally, after careful consideration and analysis, we have decided to return the Connaught Armoury Building (ARC) to the City of Edmonton. The ARC location, the historic space for our drop-in resource services, is not ideal for our evolving needs and is extremely costly to maintain. We believe that co-locating the Resource and Health Hub and 24/7 Help Centre into the Youth Support Centre is paramount for better efficiency and service delivery. This decision will allow us to refocus our efforts on rebuilding Whyte Ave or finding a new location for our center.

Both the closure of Shanoa’s Place and the decision regarding the ARC have always been part of our medium-term plan. We have collaborated extensively with agencies in the Youth Agency Collaboration, particularly those specializing in housing, and we firmly believe that this direction will ultimately result in improved care for the youth we serve.

We understand that change can be challenging, but we also know that the dedication of our teams across all our departments will continue to support youth with the help they need when they need it and where they need it.

Visit YESS.org/changes-at-yess to learn more!

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