Interview with Global for Lexus Charity Golf Tournament

Global sat down with Margo Long, President & CEO of YESS, and Janet Harroun, Golf Tournament Director for Lexus South Pointe, to talk about the upcoming Lexus Golf Tournament in support of YESS! Learn more about how support like this provides critical services for youth in our community.

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Pride at YESS, All Year Round

Happy Pride! Around the world, June is celebrated as Pride Month. This is a time for celebration and reflection for 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and their allies, to be loud and proud about how far we have come and how far we still have to go for equal rights and safety.

To talk about the critical importance of providing safe spaces for youth and their gender expressions and sexual identites, YESS Manager of Quality Assurance, Nicole McMillan, shares the research, experiences, and insights that guide the practices in our programs.


What makes YESS safe space for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth?

YESS strives to create a space where youth can feel confident to explore and embody their gender expression and identity without fear of harm, shame, or judgement. YESS demonstrates a safe space by intentionally asking youth about pronouns used, if they need gender affirming supplies, and creating a culture where all facets of the gender spectrum are accepted and supported. Staff training is nuanced and specific and includes training on the different facets of gender (often referred to as the gender “unicorn”). Youth deadnames (the name that a transgender person was given at birth and no longer uses upon transitioning) are referenced only when legally required. YESS has several processes in place to prevent outing a youth to other services providers. 


Why is it important to provide safe spaces and specific supports for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth? What are the outcomes of providing these supports?

Providing safe spaces and specific supports for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth SAVES LIVES.


From The Trevor Project:

LGBTQ+ young people are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers (Johns et al., 2019; Johns et al., 2020).

The Trevor Project estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ+ young people (ages 13-24) seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S. — and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds.

The Trevor Project’s 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People found that 41% of LGBTQ+ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including roughly half of transgender and nonbinary youth.  



What is one thing you wish the community knew about youth who access YESS?

YESS youth are funny, caring, and fully fledged human beings. They’re more than their trauma story. 

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Community Spotlight: NiGiNaN Housing Ventures

NiGiNaN Housing Ventures is an Indigenous-led registered non-profit charity formed to address particular housing needs of people living in Edmonton. They are dedicated to providing supportive affordable housing opportunities for individuals and families who have not been successfully served by any other organization in Edmonton.

NiGiNaN’s first development, Ambrose Place, is one of the most successful programs and housing complexes for Edmonton’s formerly hardest-to-house individuals.

We talked to Arsan Buffin, Site Manager for NiGiNaN developments Ambrose Place, McArthur Place, and Omamoo Wango Gamik, about NiGiNaN’s mission and their impact on the community.


Tell us about NiGiNaN Housing Ventures and your role there.

NiGiNaN Housing Ventures is an Indigenous-led not-for-profit organization whose core focus is housing the hardest to house. We provide a home that comes with caring staff, food security, and of course a community for anyone to feel welcome into. NiGiNaN operates 4 different sites that house close to 300 individuals that range from people accessing our Indigenous-led emergency shelter space, to one our permanent supportive housing sites, to our independent living site which has a focus on family reunification and establishing sober living. Between these sites comes the NiGiNaN approach of being relational and really decolonizing what the landlord-tenancy act is.

I am a Site Manager for Ambrose Place, McArthur Place, and Omamoo Wango Gamik. I am a support to staff at the sites should they need assistance with navigating the needs of the many tenants, along with always maintaining relationships with the residents so that the residents know they can come to me should they have concerns. Ultimately my goal is to keep people housed, and to work with the staff at the sites to ensure our relationship is ongoing.


Why is it important to provide culturally relevant support for people as they access housing and also start to improve their holistic wellbeing? What are the outcomes of providing this kind of support?

NiGiNaN operates with a mentality that we want our people to take care of our people. We want our people showcasing what it looks like to house our own. Many of our tenants find community at our sites, and really get that sense of home. It’s through culture and using ceremony that we can achieve these things. As an Indigenous person who is removed or displaced from your culture, it can be a challenge to find that sense of being once again. Within NiGiNaN we really aim to help the people we house to find this again through ceremony. At the sites we often have pipe ceremonies and feasts to encourage community. I think it’s really powerful that when a tenant reaches a palliative time they wish to remain at our sites and want us to provide the end-of-life care. I think that represents a lot of the outcomes that we aim to create through our relational approach.


How does Indigenous leadership in community resources provide empowered programming impact for everyone in the community?

Perspective goes hand-in-hand with lived experience. With this background in leadership, the understanding of learning how to “meet people where they’re at” carries a lot of weight and translates to being able to develop housing programs that can be successful with keeping people housed.


What is one thing you wish the community knew about youth experiencing crisis and/or housing instability?

That housing people is the easy part. It’s keeping them there is where the real work begins. They need the life skills to manage a living space, need to learn how to budget, understand the landlord/tenant act, all while navigating trauma, mental health challenges, and addictions. They need ongoing support, and guidance to navigate all of the above.

Young people have a very small timeframe to access youth-specific resources before they age out and become one of thousands. I’ve seen this happen many times when I was working with young people. This time is so valuable to try to set them up with success, but often youth-serving agencies only have hours each week to create real change. I think this is a huge issue. We need to develop a way to be positive influencers for the young people, and the way to achieve this is to spend more time with them.

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Celebrating Success: Eddie Gots, YESS CFO, Wins the CPA Alberta Early Achievement Award

This award is a testament to Eddie’s dedication, expertise, and outstanding contributions to our organization and many others along the way. His relentless pursuit of excellence, innovative strategies and commitment to financial stewardship have significantly contributed to what YESS is today. Since joining YESS, Eddie has transformed its internal financial practices, implementing controls and an accounting structure that helped us become more financially stable and sustainable. He has also helped create a culture of trust and confidence at YESS and improve the quality of life for the YESS community. 


CPA Alberta Early Achievement Nomination Video for Eddie Gots, YESS CFO


Eddie’s dedication to financial education and empowerment has resulted in increased financial safety and sustainability for the team at YESS. His mentorship has provided personal growth opportunities for staff and board members, enhancing their financial literacy and confidence. Additionally, Eddie’s departmental empowerment initiatives have allowed staff members to take more ownership of financial matters, fostering a sense of responsibility and pride in their roles. 

Today, YESS has been able to reestablish our contingency reserves and maintain our budgets, and this financial stability has ultimately allowed us to get back to doing what we do best: Provide opportunities for youth in need and prepare them for life ahead. 

Eddie has made significant strides in transforming both his organization and community. His leadership exemplifies a commitment to sustainable growth and philanthropy, leaving a lasting legacy of positive change. 

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