Learn the storied history of our Whyte Ave Building
The YESS Whyte Ave building is 105 years old this year! Built in 1914, it was intended to be a fire hall with room for two pumper engines, stables for five horses, and quarters for seven men. The fire hall was never used, though, as the First World War broke out and reassigned the men and resources needed to run the fire hall.
It wasn’t until 1926 that the building was put to use again. City Council voted to rent the building to the Salvation Army for a dollar a year and it became the Eventide Home for Single Elderly Men with accommodation for 30-40 residents. The Salvation Army ran the building until 1979, completing major expansions and renovations. The building was turned back over to the city, who considered a variety of options including demolishing the existing building to make way for a modern fire hall.
It just so happened that around this same time, a group of concerned individuals—mostly those involved with social work—had started to come together to find a solution for a specific social services problem: until the age of 16, youth came under the jurisdiction of Child Welfare authorities, but would not qualify for social assistance until the age of 18. For youth in crisis and experiencing homelessness aged 16 to 17, resources were non-existent.
To solve this problem, they began to organize resources for youth in need and by 1981 they needed an official space to continue their mission. While there was no property available in the inner city for them, there was an old brick building on Whyte Ave. In order to raise funds to renovate the building and operate a shelter, they formed the Youth Emergency Shelter Society (YESS).
Through generous donations from community individuals and businesses and the hard work of many volunteers, many much-needed repairs and renovations were completed and the Youth Emergency Shelter opened its doors on April 18, 1982. We have been providing shelter and resources for youth in Edmonton ever since.
An old building that sees as much use as our Whyte Ave facility is a constant work in progress—from urgent fixes to beautiful renovations—that is maintained by our incredible Facilities team and the ongoing help of volunteers.
So much has changed even since YESS has occupied this building, most notably the expansion and diversification of programs and resources for youth. YESS now runs three facilities: the overnight shelter and supporting housing Graham’s Place on Whyte Ave, the Armoury Resource Centre for daytime programs, and Shanoa’s Place on the west end. It was this expansion that led us to change our name to Youth Empowerment and Support Services to better reflect the services we are able to offer youth.
One thing has stayed the same. This stalwart brick building has always sought to provide safety in our community, as a fire hall, as the Salvation Army’s Eventide Home, and now as YESS. And from day one, YESS has been a place where the community comes together to create safe, empowering spaces for youth who have experienced crisis and trauma. We know that we are not alone in this and never have been. We are all part of creating a city and a community where we can heal together.
I have always thought of Fall and Winter as seasons for rest and reflection. It is the time when we can curl up in our warmest clothes, rest, and build up our resilience for the inevitable challenges that come our way.
Resiliency is a theme that runs pervasively through YESS. We teach the youth about resiliency and self care: about regulating their emotions through breathing, moving their bodies and connecting with their minds, calming their central nervous systems, and building a quiver of tools they can use when facing difficulties. Resiliency is the pot of gold we all seek. We work desperately against an invisible clock that can have trauma and challenges at every hour to help youth choose and begin to learn the techniques and thought processes that build self-control, self-regulation, self-confidence, and self-worth. (In other words, the resiliency to begin to understand that all that has happened to them is not their fault, and to face the next challenges in their life capably, and with their own interests and accountability at the forefront.) Resiliency is typically built from strong, positive attachments to parents, good teachers in positive school environments, safe and positive childhood play and interactions, and a safe, inclusive, role-modelling community. When you have not had these things, and been very hurt at an early age, your resiliency can take on a very different face. It can take on the various masks of coping mechanisms designed to comfort, protect, and hide from the harshest realities: the masks of addiction, abuse, violence, and suicide.
And here is what I have noticed about resiliency after two years at YESS. While our city’s social workers, youth workers, and support staff are working to help the youth build resiliency, they are depleting their own energy stores, and wearing down their own resiliency. Our city’s frontline youth workers are doing some of the most difficult work you can imagine. They are often concurrently parenting, tutoring, counselling, mediating, de-escalating, and even doing CPR and first aid (ON THE YOUTH THEY ARE PARENTING). Can you imagine the trauma of walking your own teenager through a suicide plan and working each day to help them do their homework, struggling maybe with a learning disability, and then having to administer first aid or Naloxone that night? This is the reality of youth workers. This is our reality. And while the winter months can be restful and reflective, they contain the darkest, coldest months and the deep trauma of the holiday season.
Often, organizations simply do not have the funds or the capacity to provide the counselling, extra benefit support, staff overlap, and training that could truly help build a resilient staff. At YESS, we are in a position to recognize that we cannot afford NOT to take care of the resiliency of those who care for our most vulnerable. We, as a society, keep telling each other it takes a village to raise a child, because of the very fact that parents cannot do it all themselves. And now we need to walk that talk. We need to take care of the very parents who are raising our most vulnerable.
Just as I have asked you to look closer and with empathy at our youth, I ask you now to see those who serve our city in such a deep and meaningful way and who do so without reward, recognition, and often without the help of the systems and the community they operate within.
They are my heroes. And I am honoured to serve them. Let us care for them so that they may continue this brave work.
Meet the Latte Family, who created Richard’s Reading Room at the Armoury Resource Centre and created a legacy of giving in memory of their son, Richard
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. My name is Cheryl Latte. I am a mom of five, and a grandma. I love to help create spaces and sanctuaries for others. Thus far I have helped create a number of spaces including: a playroom at another charitable organization, a family space at an assisted living facility, and have helped set up and decorate homes for new refugee families. Of course Richard’s Reading Room is the space that started it all. When my son Richard passed away tragically at the age of 22 from testicular cancer, I was a mom who was deeply grieving and needed to find something positive to focus on in the face of something so tragic. I thought of YESS and the rest, as they say, is history. I am so humbled that this small space has become an integral part of the YESS landscape, and that Richard (and our family) continue to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
2. What are some of your strongest beliefs about YESS? YESS helps kids. That is the long and short of it.
They help youth in so many ways: their physical and mental health, and emotional needs.
YESS gives them a safe place to be and a soft place to land when their world is anything but.
3. What is something you wish the community knew about YESS and YESS youth? When I visit the Armoury to tidy Richard’s Reading Room, or to bake with the kids there, I always come away with far more than I give. I can’t count the number of thanks and hugs I have received over the last 7 years. I am always awed at the level of kindness and compassion I see in these kids, and that they are so grateful for the smallest of gestures. I have had the privilege of hearing some of their stories, and they have asked me to share mine. Sharing our stories… it is how we connect with each other, despite our differences. How fitting it is that those stories are often shared in Richard’s Reading Room: a place where stories abound.
4. What inspired you to give to YESS through an endowment? When we were planning the grand opening of Richard’s Reading Room in November 2012, it became apparent that the monetary donations we received from the community to create the room exceeded what we needed at the time. We were lucky enough to meet with a representative from the Edmonton Community Foundation, who suggested that an option for the remaining funds could be to create an endowment fund in Richard’s name. We were excited to go ahead with this, as it would mean that Richard’s legacy would continue to give back for years to come.
Although the direction of the “Richard Latte Educational Fund” has changed a bit over the years, I’m thrilled to know that Richard’s Reading Room at YESS will continue to receive funds regularly, which will allow the space to continue to be updated, homey, welcoming, aesthetically pleasing, and filled with a selection of good quality youth literature. It will continue to be a “sanctuary within a sanctuary.”
Richard’s chapter is finished, but his story continues thanks to Richard’s Reading Room at YESS and the endowment fund established in Richard’s honor with The Edmonton Community Foundation.
If you’re interested in or have any questions about endowments or legacy giving, please contact our Philanthropy team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The YESS kitchens do thanks to a partnership with Alberta Milk!
“It has been a huge relief for our kitchen to not have to worry about where we are going to buy milk for our kids,” says Cherish Hepas, YESS Kitchen Supervisor. “Thanks to Alberta Milk and their long-term friendship with us, our kids are given the amount suggested to us by the Canada Food Guide. We need more friends like them! They are giving our youth a healthy beginning to a new future.”
Alberta Milk is proud to partner with YESS and to be part of providing our youth with proper nutrition. Says Charmaine Blatz from Alberta Milk, “Alberta Milk is proud to support initiatives such as this. We understand the issues that face these kids and are happy to provide support the YESS in all the programs they have.”
YESS Dream Summer Smoothie
With frozen peaches and mangos, these quick & easy smoothies can make any day a tropical dream.
Servings: 1 smoothie (recipe may easily be doubled)
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Total Time: 5 Minutes
1 cup peeled and sliced peaches, cold (frozen peaches should be thawed)
1/2 cup chopped mangoes, cold (frozen mangoes should be thawed)
1/4 cup mango nectar, cold
1 cup milk
1/2 of a banana
2 teaspoons agave (optional)
½ cup of 0% Greek yogurt
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and purée until completely smooth. Pour into a tall glass and enjoy cold.
Many hands make the work and healing done at YESS possible
YESS volunteers are a huge part of the work we do in our youth programs, in our offices, at special events, and around our buildings every day. In 2018, 435 volunteers gave 5021 hours of their time and dedication to walk beside youth on their journeys towards healing. Volunteers are community individuals, students, and corporate teams looking to give where they live.
At the 2019 YESS Gala for Youth volunteers greeted guests, sold raffle tickets, and helped set up and tear down the incredible Underneath the Stars experience. Our gala and golf tournament would not be the same without our event volunteers. YESS volunteers are also part of major community events such as Interstellar Rodeo and this year’s Edmonton Craft Beer Festival that benefit YESS. They are part of the impact YESS is making on the community.
In programs volunteers help wake up youth in the shelter, serve lunch at the daytime resource centre, and host fun events for all youth like Easter egg hunts, Halloween parties, and BBQs.
One team of volunteers that has done a lot of work over the past two years is Distribution NOW. Their enthusiasm when they come to YESS is so contagious and we’re always happy to see them!
“The DistributionNOW Lights Program was created to encourage our people to look for ways to support organizations and causes that help others and improve our communities,” says Nan Mifflin, General Manager of the Edmonton Distribution Centre at Distribution NOW. “As an industry leader, DistributionNOW believes it is our responsibility to use our influence and relationships to promote increased philanthropic efforts throughout our Canada-wide branch network and with our industry partners. DistributionNOW is a proud supporter of YESS and their vision to walk beside traumatized youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration.”
Volunteers also help in the maintenance of our facilities at Whyte Ave, the Armoury Resource Centre, and Shanoa’s Place. Led by our amazing Facilities team, volunteers organize donations, plant gardens, tidy yards, and paint. Some volunteers take on even bigger jobs, like at the United Way Engineering Day of Caring. Volunteers with engineering backgrounds replaced roof shingles, installed new flooring in shelter areas, and built a new patio base in the Whyte Ave yard. It was a huge “done in a day” effort that we couldn’t have accomplished without them!
We like to share the quote “Changing the world always needs volunteers.” Our volunteers are truly making a positive impact in the lives of youth by working directly with them, creating safe spaces for them, and providing support for resources that empower them. This work is changing our community, creating a city where we can all heal together.
Are you interested in sharing your time and dedication with youth on their journeys towards healing? Visit YESS.org/volunteer to check out volunteer opportunities and apply to volunteer!
Every youth should
have a safe place to call home. This is
our goal, but we cannot do it alone.
You’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”—it takes
a community to walk alongside every youth with no place to go, and to ensure no
youth ever feels alone. No one will be
We want to change the way our community views
homelessness. It is never a choice: the youth
who access YESS and other vulnerable youth-supporting agencies have experienced
trauma in one form or another, whether it is at home, on the street, or even
within our care systems. They do not trust the adult systems or communities
that failed them, and they believe that the abuse, neglect, mental illness, or
negative experiences that have happened to them are their fault.
Investment in our
youth is an investment in our community.
Making an investment in programs, staff, and housing for youth gives
them the space to heal, learn to trust, and learn life skills every child
should be provided.
It currently costs
just over $6,000 to serve one youth at YESS for one year. Compare this number
to the approximately $112,000 it costs our city to serve entrenched and
addicted homeless adults. It is also important to note that YESS currently
receives just over 20% provincial funding for our operating budget. We spend
most of our year fundraising to keep operating.
We need your help—we
cannot do this without you. Look to our
future. Help us to give our kids the future we all deserve. A future that will
give back to the community that believed in them and never gave up!
You are truly part of the community our youth need. Let’s #healtogether at YESS.
The Organic Box
provides hundreds of dollars’ worth of produce to our kitchens every week. They
have also shared their passion for helping our youth with their Food Family
initiative, which leads to donations of almost $13,000 annually.
Oven-Roasted Root Crops with Chicken
8 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
8 ounces potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces romanesco broccoli, trimmed to similar pieces
6 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths, thick ends halved lengthwise
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 475 degrees. Toss brussels sprouts, potatoes, shallots, carrots, garlic, oil, 2 tsp fresh thyme, 1 tsp fresh rosemary, sugar, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper together in a large mixing bowl.
In a small mixing bowl stir together melted butter, remaining 2 tsp fresh thyme, remaining 1 tsp fresh rosemary, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
Place vegetables in a single layer on an 18 by 13-inch baking sheet, arranging brussels sprouts in the center. Place chicken, skin side up, on top of vegetables, arranging thighs around the perimeter of the sheet.
Brush chicken with herb butter. Roast until thighs register 175 degrees, 35-40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through roasting.
Remove sheet from oven, tent loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter or plates. Toss vegetables with pan juices, season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to platter or plates and serve warm.
In February we hosted ART at ARC: Stories of Resilience, Strength &
Creativity, the youth art show and sale to celebrate the artwork created by youth
in the YESS Art Connections Program. There were over 80 pieces of original art
in 8 types of media and up to 100 pieces of printed art! This program is an
important part of helping youth on their journeys towards healing, providing
them with a safe space to express themselves and work through their trauma
through the power of art. Their guide to exploring their creativity is Svitlana
Kravchuk, art program facilitator. Svitlana is a multidisciplinary artist,
mainly concentrating on painting, mixed media, and performance art.
“I feel like there are a lot of talented young people in our community who have a lot of passion and creativity that should be shared with others,” says Svitlana. “I wanted to be a part of their support system through making art together and finding way to visually express and communicate what might be going on for them.”
“Often when youth are traumatized,
the first piece of them to disappear is their voice; being able to speak their
truth, say what they feel, identify what scares them and reach out for help,”
says Jessica Day, Director of Program Innovation at YESS. “When a youth is
silenced through trauma, talking with a therapist or a friend or a youth worker
can be intimidating and easier to just avoid, despite a system that pushes for
youth to speak up and speak out. If youth do not have the tools to rebuild
their voice, they will forever stay silent in their journey. Art and the
art programming at YESS have been an incredible outlet for youth to begin to
build a relationship with their feelings and their thoughts. It is a
visual representation of their stories, their emotions, and their world view,
and it allows them to see positive and healthy responses to their
expressions. Art gives them back their voice and reinforces that their
voice is important and beautiful.”
There are a lot of new experiences to come in the Art Connections
Program with Svitlana at the helm. In April there will be a workshop with
spoken word artist Buddy Wakefield. Buddy is a three-time world champion spoken
word artist who will also be performing at Underneath the Stars, the 2019 YESS
Gala for Youth.
Our partner in sharing this love of creativity with our youth is Simons, who have generously supported the YESS Art Connections Program for severalyears. Simons is committed to celebrating arts and culture in all their diversity and beauty. Yvonne Cowan, Director of Store Operations in Edmonton, is very proud of how Simons champions the young artists and supports the Art Connections Program at YESS.
“Our continued commitment and support of the Art Connections Program at YESS is truly an honour for us at Simons,” says Yvonne. “Art evokes emotions, inspires conversations, and creates community. You can’t help but be inspired by these talented youth who take us on remarkable spiritual journeys. Their ability to convey messages of hope and healing in an honest, genuine, and pure form is courageous.”
The Art Connections Program also gives youth the opportunity connect with other artists, cultures, and communities.
“What I am most looking forward to is inviting Indigenous artists as
well as other artists who represent our communities to share their own stories,
knowledge, and experiences through art,” says Svitlana. “I’m hoping to engage
more youth and more professional artists in the program, helping youth to be
proud of their work and motivated to continue with their artistic endeavours.”
Svitlana uses her own art to explore concepts of displacement, trauma,
and female experiences. She understands how art can be used as a powerful tool
for expression and coping.
“Everyone’s experience is different. For me, art is a raw expression of
heart, mind, and soul. Sometimes it can act as an emotional, mental, physical,
or spiritual release and grounding. It can also act as an incredible
communication tool that tells a story or reflects where the artist may be in
On Friday, April 26,
guests joined us Underneath the Stars at the 2019 YESS Gala for Youth!
Guests arrived at the Edmonton Convention Centre and entered The Stars Align Foyer, a curated gallery full of youth art in a collaboration between YESS, iHuman Youth Society, and the Trinity Youth Project. There were installations, demonstrations where guests could create their own artwork, and there was a game with our own Trauma Care Team. Bethany and Marcia shared their expertise to teach guests how trauma affects the brain and body, and how the trauma-informed care model at YESS is helping youth heal.
The hall was transformed
into a galaxy of stars, an awesome sight for everyone to behold as they
entered. Thank you so much to our event planners at Foundry Conferences &
Events and Invert 720 for the cosmic magic they created.
There were two raffle
prizes available for guests to go starry-eyed over: 100 bottles of wine
generously provided by Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group, or a wellness package
with items from Ballet Edmonton, the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, MC College, Prana
Yoga Studio, SVPT Fitness + Athletics, Simons, and Too Fit Fitness.
We were excited to
welcome back Ryan Jespersen as our gala emcee. As Ryan invited guests to put on
their 3D glasses, the lights went out and the screen displayed an amazing
animation of Earth and its place in the cosmos, to the narration of Carl Sagan’s
“Pale Blue Dot.”
“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Then Ballet Edmonton took the stage in a special performance to Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.” Under the direction of celebrated Canadian choreographer Wen Wei Wang, Ballet Edmonton has been the resident contemporary ballet company since 2012. The company pushes the boundaties of the traditional ballet aesthetic to allow for new, exciting physical vocabulary to emerge. Ballet Edmonton is a not-for-profit organization that is committed to artistic collaboration in the dance and arts communities.
After the ballet
company, a single dancer took the stage. Mataya is a young Cree person from
Calling Lake First Nation. She is currently attending Grade 12 at McNally High
School and is a resident at Graham’s Place, on of YESS’ transitional
residences. Mataya performed the Jingle Dress Dance, a traditional healing
dance of many Indigenous peoples. Women and girls who perform the Jingle Dress
Dance often pray for healing of loved ones. This dance gives people strength
through emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual struggles. Mataya started
dancing when she was 7 years old and she is looking to continue practicing
powwow and travel across Turtle Island sharing her healing dance with other.
“Mataya feels as though there is yet a lot of healing to be done, not only in her personal life, but also healing of her family members and of our whole community altogether. When she hears the beat of the drum, it makes her heart beat faster—it makes her happies and takes the heaviness off her shoulders, like the rain washing away the pain.”
After these performances, Ryan welcomed Mayor Don Iveson to the stage. He shared a message of hope and gratitude to all organizations that are walking beside youth and the community that supports them. “Things are getting better for kids thanks to you and thanks to staff and thanks to people who make events like tonight possible… Making sure we uplift every Edmontonian, making sure no one gets left behind.”
After dinner was
served, YESS President & CEO Margo Long took the stage to share with guests
what has been happening this past year at YESS.
“A sense of community cannot occur when we view traumatized youth as “them.” They are not “them,” they are us. It requires every one of us to empathize and walk beside those who are in pain. Play a part in the power of connection and healing.
“Our youth are kind, they are brilliant, they are creative, they are hilarious, and they are tough as hell, and they’ve been hurt so very badly let’s invest in a future that is rich with their contribution and their voices.”
Margo Long, YESS President & CEO
Margo also shared information
on the return on investment our supporters are part of when they donate to
YESS. It costs $6000 to support one youth at YESS for a year and last year we
saw over 800 youth in our programs—including shelter, trauma-informed care,
access to counselling, life skills resources, and more. It costs $112,000 to
support an adult entrenched in homelessness and addiction. Programs for youth
trauma and homelessness are truly an integral part of diverting people out of
homelessness at a crucial time in their lives and create a community where
everyone can feel safe and supported and heal together.
champion spoken word artist Buddy Wakefield took the stage to share a series of
poems about honesty, forgiveness, and healing. Buddy is not concerned with what
poetry is or is not and delivers raw, rounded, disarming performances of humour
and heart. “Forgiveness is for anyone who needs safe passage…” Many guests were
deeply touched by Buddy’s words and gave him a standing ovation.
In the grand finale,
international stars and local talent The Melisizwe Brothers took the stage.
Their charisma was undeniable, and there is something so special about youth
supporting youth. This talented group of brothers has been featured on The
Ellen Degeneres Show, New Year’s Eve at New York Times Square in front of over
1 million people, America’s Got Talent, and provided lead vocals on the Netflix
series Motown Magic.
an exciting live auction with incredible packages from Blind Enthusiasm Brewing
Company, Central Mountain Air and The Cloutier Family, Impark and the Edmonton
International Airport, Giselle Denis Fine Artist, WestJet and Suzanne &
Michael Dudey, and Workshop Eatery, Knight Group Real Estate, and Paul Woida,
the starry evening came to a close. Guests were invited to join us at the gala afterparty
at Revel Bistro & Bar!
you so much to all of the guests, sponsors, donors, performers, and volunteers
who joined us Underneath the Stars at the 2019 YESS Gala for Youth! We hope you
all experienced a sense of connection and community!
are so excited to share that this year’s event raised $260,355 in support of
YESS programs and services for youth who have experienced trauma!
We are so grateful for your support as we walk beside youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration.
A special thank you to our sponsors who made this event possible:
AB grew up in an abusive home. Soon they resorted to
sleeping at friends’ places and sleeping outside. The first time they came to
YESS was on a night when it was too cold to sleep outside.
“It was actually a lot better than I expected. I met staff
who talked to me about my experiences and made me feel a bit better,” says AB.
“They encouraged me to stay in school while I was staying in shelter. It was
nice to have this place that I knew was a good option for me.”
YESS staff helped AB find housing and AB is now living in a
group home environment where they can learn the basics about living on their
own. AB’s most defining experience at YESS was feeling supported to not just
feel safe, but also move forward. With their basic needs met in a safe place
with good people who care, AB felt empowered to set goals and make plans to accomplish
“My goals are to love myself,” says AB. “I have not done a
good job at this in my life and the people around me growing up didn’t help
with this either, but I’m working on it. It takes such small steps to change
how you see yourself.”
AB sees a future in helping people who have been in the same
situations AB has experienced. Like many other YESS youth, AB feels they could
help others experiencing homelessness because they understand how those people
feel. If AB could give someone experiencing homelessness advice now, what would
“I would say hang in there and listen to the people who are
saying they want to help you figure out how to help yourself,” says AB. “I would
say you can get through this, but you have to focus on staying clean and go to
treatment if you need to. And deal with the stuff that happened to you as a kid
and talk about it with a therapist or a counsellor and release it all.”
AB has been so strong and committed to their goals. What
would they say is their greatest accomplishment?
“Living my life has been an accomplishment. It is so hard
sometimes and the fact that I’m still here is a big deal,” says AB. “I don’t
know what I’m going to do [when I finish school and get a job] but as I go
through each step I feel more confident about the next one.”
We are so proud of AB and all the hard work they’ve put
towards their goals and their healing. It is truly inspiring to see AB apply
what they’ve learned about self-love and use that as their momentum to move