To walk beside traumatized youth on their journey towards healing and appropriate community integration.
What We Do
Based in Edmonton, Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS) provides immediate and low-barrier 24/7 shelter, a drop-in resource centre, temporary supportive housing, temporary independent cohort housing, and individualized wrap-around supports for young people aged 15–24.
We work collaboratively within a network of care focused on the prevention of youth homelessness by providing youth with the necessary supports to stabilize their housing, improve their wellbeing, build life skills, connect with community, and avoid re-entry into homelessness.
We focus on prevention and diversion out of homelessness. Prevention means providing proactive resources for youth and their caregivers before youth become homeless. Diversion means finding appropriate housing for youth before they become entrenched or as an exit out of homelessness.
We focus on healing trauma through relationship. Trauma has a negative impact on the physical, emotional, and developmental well-being of an individual. Among many other serious effects, trauma can have a lasting impact on the ability to develop healthy relationships.
We focus on walking beside youth to minimize falling through gaps. Barriers are policies or expectations that put resources out of reach of those who need them. These restrictions often prevent people from seeking help.
We focus on collaboration (with everyone). Collaboration means we work together with other organization and in line with local, provincial, and national plans to create a holistic approach to addressing homelessness.
Youth Homelessness in Edmonton
In 2019, YESS served approximately 650* young people between the ages of 15 and 25 who had experienced housing instability and trauma. These young people did not choose to experience homelessness; instead, they are fighting to survive their experiences with trauma: abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation, violence, discrimination, and more. Living in survival mode comes from trauma in the home, trauma within families, and trauma within their communities. Most often, youth in survival mode need access to resources for basic needs first and have to build up trust that services and agencies are able to help them build their own future in the community. We know from brain development research that healthy connections and relationships are needed to move past trauma and grow into healthier adults.
* During the pandemic, we were able to transition a lot of our current clientele into COVID-appropriate housing with family, natural supports, and within the community. However we also saw an equal amount of new intakes from youth who were no longer safe or supported with family, natural supports, and within the community. While the number of youth attending was similar to previous years, the complex landscape of youth who experienced trauma changed.
The Cycle of Unaddressed Trauma
It is our belief that if these traumatic experiences are left unaddressed in young people, they will most likely create cyclic barriers to healing and moving forward with their lives in a positive way in community. Some of these barriers and results include addiction, mental illness, abuse, and criminal involvement. YESS has reorganized its structure and processes to be trauma-informed, created an internal trauma and mental health psychology team called the Wellness Integration Team, and has created an evaluation framework to help youth identify what life skills they still need to develop and where they are in their healing journey.
It is our belief that if we give youth safe space, consistent and non-judgemental support and teaching, and the time to choose their own path to success, we can prevent further entrenchment into the cycles of trauma and homelessness.
We are so proud to be celebrating 40 years in Edmonton! On September 1, 1981, YESS was officially incorporated after years of work from the community in Bonnie Doon.
Over the years we have moved from the crisis focus of emergency shelter to a prevention focus that provides everything from shelter to resources to trauma support. We even changed our name to Youth Empowerment and Support Services in 2012.
What has stayed constant is the importance of community in our mission to walk beside youth on their journeys towards healing.
Thank you to our partner agencies, board members, donors, volunteers, and wider community for collaborating with us over the years! And thank you to the youth who are courageously seizing their goals and their futures in our programs.
This year, join us as we Celebrate Our Youth!
About Our Logo
Francis is a swallow and he represents hope and renewal of life, as well as freedom! We hope that the bright colours represent our hope for the future.
The polygons represent that everyone is unique. We are all the building blocks that come together to form the whole!