A New Direction

Our new focus is on addressing the holistic wellbeing of young people and a collaborative process amongst agencies to ensure young people get the help they need, when they need it, and where they need it.

The structure of our Youth Support Centre is programming that provides 24/7 help and a safe place to sleep for youth ages 15–21, as well as a daytime resource and health hub for youth 15–24.

We recognize that our expertise is in providing 24/7 help (intake, triage, stabilization, connections, and safe spaces to sleep) as well as holistic wellbeing assessments and outcomes evaluations frameworks.

Since 1981, YESS has been evolving in how we understand and improve our support of youth.

In 2017, we identified that untreated trauma is a major causal barrier in youth success and wellbeing. In previous youth support strategies, the focus has been on providing solutions to address symptoms and not enough on addressing the root cause of their difficulties: family and community breakdown and the untreated trauma in young people as a result. Over the last seven years, we re-positioned our organization to focus on understanding trauma and supporting youth on their healing journeys, resulting in better outcomes for youth. These changes include:

  • Building an in-house Wellness Integration Team of psychologists and support practitioners to provide trauma-informed youth crisis stabilization and mental health education, to support front-line youth workers in crisis support and post-crisis healing, as well as programming and connections to cultural, identity, and spiritual supports for youth.
  • Co-founding the Youth Agency Collaboration and helping to bring together more than 30 youth serving agencies (and growing) to create a connected and collaborative strategy for youth wellbeing and prevention of further chronic symptoms such as homelessness, addiction, and criminal involvement.
  • Transitioning to a 24/7 intake centre for youth because crisis can happen anytime, and youth need a place to stabilize and sleep during the day.
  • Consolidating our resource hub, medical clinic, and shelter within a single location to make it easier for youth to have access to programs, services, and supports.

In March 2023, we completed our 2018–2023 5-Year Strategic Plan and have spent this past year understanding our expertise and value in the sector, as well as what is needed most in our community.

The work we have done in listening to youth and youth workers has led us to make some very big changes in our philosophy, programming, and strategic direction for the future.




A more connected, holistic, and lower-barrier system for youth in crisis.



Ensure 27/4 access, safe sleeping, and compassionate holistic support within a network of care to ensure youth get the expert help they need, when they need it, and where they need it.


What are barriers?

Barriers are realities such as time and distance, expectations, and even policies that put resources out of reach of those who need them. These restrictions often prevent people from seeking help.

What is trauma?

Trauma means any form of abuse, neglect, abandonment, violent, or unexpected experience that has a lasting negative impact on the physical, emotional, or development wellbeing of an individual. Among many serious effects, untreated trauma can have long term impact on the ability to form healthy relationships.

What is holistic wellbeing?

Holistic supports look at the whole experience of being: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual/cultural needs. Physical wellbeing includes stability of living condition, basic needs such as food and clothing, substance use and impact, mental health and self-care, and access to healthcare. Emotional wellbeing includes emotional and behavioural health and social skills. Mental wellbeing includes self-worth, setting goals, and embodying healthy resilience. Spiritual/cultural wellbeing includes participation in creation activities, connection to community, family, identity, language, and peers, and connection to culture, faith, and history.

Holistic assessments are shared across Youth Agency Collaboration organizations so we can offer a consistent continuum of care for youth.

What is collaboration?

Collaboration means working together with other organizations and in line with local, provincial, and national plans to create a holistic approach to addressing homelessness. Experience with youth who are in crisis means bringing their unique needs and specialized solutions to conversations and strategies about this population.



The Youth Agency Collaboration sees a future where young people in Edmonton can have a future of their choosing by having a solid, holistic foundation to build upon. Our collaboration prides itself on having strong diversity in terms of being intercultural, inclusive of 2SLGBTQIA+ young people, including youth serving organizations which work in preventative and crisis services, and working with Indigenous partners to include ceremony as a foundational component of our ongoing process.

The Youth Agency Collaboration was formed in 2018 for youth-serving agencies to collaborate and share experiences, information, and ideas to improve outcomes for youth.

Today, YESS and more than 30 youth-serving agencies across Edmonton are part of the Youth Agency Collaboration, working together to address the barriers that youth face with regards to safer spaces, trained help, holistic wellbeing support, and transitional housing that are all accessible 24/7, and in the communities where they live.

The new structure of YESS’ Youth Support Centre is a key component of the Youth Agency Collaboration, offering 24/7 intake, crisis stabilization, and safe sleeping for youth ages 15-21, as well as daytime access to drop-in medical and mental health services, housing connections, and other resources for youth up to age 24. YESS’ Youth Support Centre programs also support entry into the Youth Agency Collaboration continuum of complex care, should it be required.


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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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Donor Spotlight: Monthly Giving

*this donor requested to remain anonymous


Tell us a bit about yourself!

Our family are born Edmontonians, derived from homesteader stock. I was gifted with the ability and means to achieve a professional career. I recognize that although I have always worked hard, I was granted a degree of privilege that was not evenly distributed in our society in the 1980s and 90s.

What inspired you to start giving to YESS?

We believe in the dignity of all lives, and we recognize that not all people are free to be their authentic selves. With the recent attacks on one segment of our youth… we felt the need to re-direct some of our support for social programs into more direct youth support. 

What made you choose monthly giving as your way to give?

I value simplicity. With monthly giving, I don’t have to think about the financial end again until I want to change the amount. It’s just easy.

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

I don’t pretend to be the expert on the youth. But I can say that people end up in horrifying circumstances for a variety of reasons, and our society needs to empower people to get out of bad situations—whether that is a choice to leave home for a more precarious situation, or a choice to re-build a life some time afterwards. 

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The Impact of Monthly Giving

Did you know that up to 75% of the YESS annual operating budget is provided for through donations like yours? This month, we talked to Eddie Gots, Chief Financial Officer at YESS, about the impact of community support and opportunities like monthly giving, and how that provides not only funding but also a sense of stability and consistency for youth and staff.


Tell us a bit about yourself and your position at YESS!

I’m the Chief Financial Officer here at YESS. I wear a lot of hats, working with Finance, Fund Development, and Marketing and Communications teams. But the way I would describe my role is I lead teams that do the behind-the-scenes work—or the work that you would see not related with working with youth in crisis—in order to provide stability and the ability and assurances for the teams doing that really difficult frontline work. That means that our Programs and Facilities teams have the confidence that they will have access to the tools and the funding that they need to do their work, and they will get the support and the awareness needed as well.

What makes monthly giving such an impactful way to support YESS?

Monthly giving gives us a sense of security and predictability. Funding from donors and community-based partners are amazing in how they support what we do and how we do it and what we can do. But what it doesn’t come with is a guarantee that someone is going to give money every time at the same time every year. And it makes it hard for us to then forecast and predict the way that we need to spend money, against how or when the money is going to come in.

Becoming a monthly donor gives us a sense of security so that we know we’re going to get that $20 every month. And then we know that this $20 cost that’s going to happen every month is going to be sustained by this $20 donation. It really takes the guesswork out of running the operations and having an idea or predicting what we will have to be able to spend so that we can be fiscally responsible, and not overspend or underspend at any given point in time. It gives us a security blanket of something that we can rely on.

How important is community support when it comes to YESS programs and 24/7 access?

To me, this takes me back to the topic of my role, doing the background work at YESS and providing that sense of sustainability and stability for the staff. The work that our teams do 24/7 in the community with youth has a lot of instability. And it’s not predictable. You can’t predict that crisis going to happen every day at 3PM or 5PM or 2AM, or on Saturday or Monday or Wednesday. It’s very unpredictable, and so what support like monthly giving does is create a security blanket that gives us an element of control, so that we can manage when the unpredictable happens.

By building in that sense of ownership and giving that type of empowerment to the staff to know that they’re going to have funds and resources available to be able to tackle things that are ever-changing gives them the ability to pivot as needed, without needing to wait for the bureaucracy, or needing to send something up the chain, or not being able to make the decision because they’re unsure of when something’s going to happen. They know what they have. They can use what they have to be able to make decisions rapidly and quickly in the best interests for youth.

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

That’s always a hard one to answer. There are lots of things that I want people to know. And it also changes depending on sometimes the day, sometimes the year, sometimes the person I’m talking to.

One thing I think I want people to know about youth who access YESS is that they are our future. When we move forward in life, and we get to positions where we might not be able to take care of ourselves, this generation is who we’re going to expect to be able to rely upon. It’s important to recognize that they’re the generation that is going to succeed us, they’re going to carry on our legacies or help us in those times of need when we can’t help ourselves any further. They deserve to have caring in that kindness now, if we’re going to expect it from them when we need it.

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How Youth Are Different

Our previous strategies to serve youth have been focused too much on symptom solutions and not enough on addressing the root cause of their difficulties: family and community breakdown and the untreated trauma in young people as a result. In addition, with the competitive funding landscape, we viewed our different agencies as rivals, instead of fostering collaboration between us. Overall, the current system does not consider long-term outcomes for youth – being merely reactive rather than proactive in terms of potential results from any given program or initiative. The voices of those young people served by us were heard loud and clear: they sought a safe environment where they would not be forced to rehash traumatic stories every time support was needed while also receiving a consistent continuum care that adheres to similar ethical principles across all organizations involved with providing assistance.


Brain Development

Research establishes that the frontal cortex and reasoning are of the brain continue to develop until the age of 25 in healthy resilient brains. This development can be altered or slowed if a youth is in crisis, and we cannot presume a fully reasoning adult brain just because someone is over 18. In addition, children and youth often have difficulty understanding what has happened to them in traumatic situations, and the ways they react can be highly shame-based and disruptive to their brain development. This often also negatively affects their ability to have healthy relationships with themselves and others.

Therefore, placing chronological expectations on young people who are the age of “adulthood” (18) in our systems, before their rational brains have fully developed, and expecting them to find benefit and support through the same systems that service adults, with the expectation that they have all of the life skills and tools as those adults, is setting the young person and the system up for failure.


Establishment of Community Youth Support Centers

One of the priority Youth Agency Collaboration innovations is creating small, community-based 24/7 crisis intervention, intake, and holistic wellbeing and life skills assessment services that are co-located with resource hubs for youth across Edmonton. This would eliminate many of the immediate gaps for youth in crisis in ensuring that any young person would have a save place to get help in their community and not be turned away.


24/7 Help (In communities where youth live)

  • Crisis identification, diversion, triage, de-escalation, and stabilization
  • Emergency and reserved beds (ideally 12 or fewer)
  • Holistic wellbeing and life skills assessment and entry into the Youth Agency Collaboration connected communities of care


Resource and services hub (Monday-Friday)

  • Onsite medical clinic
  • Onsite mental health support
  • Housing connections
  • Cultural and identity supports
  • Employment and education connections
  • Programming and recreation


Currently, YESS is demonstrating the first Community Youth Support Centre. Because the need is so great and the strategy is so compelling, we have leaned in to creating the first site to demonstrate and evaluate the coordinated intake and holistic assessment components. In June 2023, YESS consolidated all of our existing programming, recreation, mental health, and primary medical care into the Whyte Avenue location, alongside our 24/7 access to emergency beds and crisis intervention. Our intent is to address the immediate need we are seeing for youth in crisis and build a strong evaluation model for the Community Youth Support Centre that is scalable and repeatable across the city and potentially across the province.

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What is the Youth Agency Collaboration?

The Youth Agency Collaboration was formed in 2019 by a group of youth serving agencies with one mission: create a strategic, connected continuum of care throughout Edmonton that will ensure young people have solid, holistic foundations upon which they can build their futures. Today, the Youth Agency Collaboration is more than 27 youth agencies dedicated to providing comprehensive supports and minimal barriers around-the-clock for youth while driving meaningful collaboration and outcomes sharing between stakeholders. Most importantly, the Youth Agency Collaboration is dedicated to shifting the funding, the dialogue, and the focus for youth to be on their holistic wellbeing.


The Current State of Youth Crisis in Edmonton

The need for a better strategy to support youth wellbeing could not be more urgent. We are seeing the following trends and increases across agencies:

  • increased youth in crisis presenting at agencies
  • increased youth houselessness
  • increased numbers of youth trying to access shelter and in youth agencies
  • increased number of youth using substances as well as overdose and poisonings
  • increased suicide and suicidal ideation in youth
  • increased number of youth with significant complex mental health issues
  • increased crisis incident in community with youth (arson, crime, violence)
  • increased instances of discrimination, fear and hate towards youth (cultural, identity-based, poverty and homelessness)
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The Ripple Effect: How One Act of Kindness Creates Endless Possibilities for Youth in Crisis

In a world often marked by challenges and uncertainties, the impact of a single act of kindness can be profound, especially for youth in crisis.

Imagine your teenage self, but on your own and grappling with crisis because of family or community breakdown, mental illness, traumatic experiences, and often all of the above. YESS’ goal, first and foremost, is to ensure that young people have the help they need when they need it, and this means addressing a significant gap in the care system: 24/7 crisis support.

When youth are able to get appropriate resource with minimal barriers, we have found the average stay for a young person at YESS is 3.5 days and the majority are not staying longer than 13 days as we have been either able to get them back with family or into supportive or transitional housing.

The impact of this holistic approach cannot be underestimated. By providing 24/7 crisis intervention and connected support, we can break down the barriers that currently prevent many youth from accessing help or staying on the journey to wellbeing. For many, this will save lives.

In our programs, we have seen youth begin to heal with even one safe, connected relationship built with staff. In sessions with our Cultural Coordinator, space is intentionally made for youth to be themselves and share their struggles and dreams for the future. After sharing space with the Cultural Coordinator, youth report feeling that staff, and adults in general, are on their side. This change in demeanor is relief from not feeling alone in the world.


“I would be dead if it wasn’t for YESS. This is so serious, and it is not a joke. YESS helped me realize that I wasn’t just born to be a homeless person. That has been the hardest thing for me to do, is to change that mindset. When you are homeless it feels like you are worthless… When you are homeless it feels like no one else in society cares and getting over those feelings is still a struggle. So yeah, the staff at YESS, they help save people.”

– Tom, former YESS youth


The transformative power of one act of connection has a ripple effect through the interconnectedness of our communities. The chain reaction may be seen more immediately, such as alleviating the pressure on our emergency departments and police services, and even long into the future, such as reducing chronic adult homelessness.

You can be part of this ripple effect. Ensure that there is always a light on for youth in crisis in our community.


Visit YESS.org/donate

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Philanthropy in Action: How Your Donations are Making a Difference for Youth

Philanthropy is so vital because it has the power to accelerate progress where it’s needed most and support the causes that can fuel real change in the world. This benefits people, the planet, and society.

Philanthropy has the power to influence lasting social change. When an organization receives support, a “ripple effect” takes place.

YESS sees approximately 700-800 youth, and over the past years, we have seen a 30% increase in youth experiencing complex mental health crises. It is increasingly clear that Edmonton is in urgent need for additional 24/7 crisis intervention centres in community associated with agency service hubs and trauma-based mental health clinics. Currently, YESS is the only organization offering 24/7 access to crisis intervention and stabilization, as well as daytime programming, recreation, and mental health and primary medical care. Our intent is to address the immediate need we are seeing for youth in crisis and build a strong evaluation model for the Community Youth Support Centre that is scalable and repeatable across the city.

While we have seen a significant increase in youth in crisis over the last years, we have seen a decrease in the funding and support for agencies who support these youth.

As a donor or volunteer or supporter who speaks up for youth, you are an integral part of the transformative process youth experience when they have appropriate supports. Your contributions extend far beyond transactions of money: they are catalysts for positive change, shaping the trajectory of lives and influencing the future of communities and societies.

Together, through philanthropy in action, we can continue to empower youth, unlocking their potential and building a future filled with promise and opportunity.

You can ensure that there is always a light on for youth in our community.


Visit YESS.org/donate to learn more.

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Changing the World with Your Generosity: Stories of Impact from YESS

My wife was a high school English teacher who introduced a creative writing course to her students.


She invited various local authors to speak to the class and assigned various topics for them to practice writing about. Toward the end of the year, she asked them to choose their own topic and assured them that no one else would ever see the stories and they would be treated with the strictest confidence. She was amazed and saddened by the number of stories that dealt with unhappy homes and negative personal experiences. She wished she could do more for them.


Then she learned about YESS and the approach you took toward helping youth. You immediately became her favourite for her donations. We both appreciate the work you are doing and your way of doing it.”   


-A most beautiful note that is a simple and heartfelt gift wrapped with the knowledge and appreciation that life’s struggles can and do much to shape a young life.


Stories are like a hand-crafted quilt with their structured creativity, fanciful stitching of words, linear patterns of thought, bursts of color and emotion. For these young people, this purposeful exercise was perhaps less about the particular challenges being penned, and more about the creative spirit that plays a role in overcoming a mosaic of hardships. The connecting threads of the written word.  

Gifts endure. And every gift, be it small or large, has at heart a story woven around it with a generosity of thought and hope for the future: wishing warmth and comfort for another that we ourselves enjoy; fostering encouragement to work towards dreams and the celebration of accomplishments that we too have achieved in our lives; the power of being present with a kind and encouraging word; knowing that you are recognized and valued.


“I think that sometimes when I tell people that I stayed at YESS they feel sorry for me; although, I don’t look at my time there like that. To me I have a better life because I stayed at YESS. It wasn’t a “step-down” it was a stepping stone to me being able to create a better life. I had a team of people believing in me and cheering me on. I’m thankful for the experience.”


– Madi, former YESS youth


More and more young people need access to 24/7 crisis intervention and stabilization, a safe place to sleep during the day or night, and trauma-informed mental health support. Currently YESS is the only place in Edmonton that has 24/7 access to take in youth ages 15-21 who are in crisis and provide appropriate supports. During daytime hours, youth ages 15-24 also have access to youth resources, medical professionals, and mental health treatment services onsite. This holistic approach breaks down the barriers that currently prevent many youth from accessing help or staying on the journey to wellbeing.

Your donation ensures that youth are able to get the help they need when they need it.


Visit YESS.org/donate

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