Community

The Orange Door Project

The Home Depot Canada Foundation is committed to supporting initiatives that prevent and end youth homelessness in Canada. They support youth at-risk or facing homelessness by helping them realize their full potential and build a brighter future.

In December 2020 for the Orange Door Project Campaign, 182 stores participated nationwide to support their local youth-serving charities. First established in 2008, the Orange Door Project’s in-store fundraising campaign unites our communities together to help give back through $2 donations at the till.

With the Orange Door Project and support from The Home Depot Canada Foundation, over $1 million was raised for 125 youth-serving charities across Canada! In Edmonton and the surrounding area, nine stores selected YESS as their charity of choice and raised over $50,000 for youth in our community!

After going through an uncertain year and adjusting to health and safety protocols in the pandemic, the support of the community rallying together and giving back has truly blown us away!

Keep an eye out at your local Home Depot for their next Orange Door Project Campaign!

Home Depot Strathcona

Home Depot Clareview

Home Depot Sherwood Park

Home Depot South Edmonton Common

Home Depot Skyview

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Long View Systems & SkipTheDepot

Last year, Long View Systems wanted to do a fundraiser to support YESS and youth in their community, but the pandemic made it difficult for them to work together when they couldn’t get together. They contacted our Community Engagement team for more information on fundraising options that would be accessible them, and we helped them find a solution with SkipTheDepot!

Tell us a bit about yourselves! Long View is one of North America’s fastest-growing IT Solutions organizations. We are one of the largest privately-owned IT services and solutions companies in North America, with offices across the continent. Our people-centric approach allows us to employ and retain many of the world’s leading enterprise technologists. We support the world’s dynamic businesses by bringing agility, simplicity and insight to your people, so they can serve your clients.

What made you choose YESS for your fundraiser? We chose YESS as an organization to donate to as we wanted to support our local youth in need and work with an organization that focuses on improving youth homelessness. SkipTheDepot has made fundraising easy during these challenging times. The process was simple and safe, with COVID-19 here we needed to find a way that everyone could donate without leaving their homes.

Thank you so much to Long View Systems! They raised $344 through their online bottle drive with SkipTheDepot!

 


 

Let SkipTheDepot make recycling easy for you! This made-in-Alberta initiative provides an awesome service picking up bottles from you front door, and you can even choose to give your refund to your favourite charity!

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Community Spotlight: Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE)

This month we want highlight the work being done at the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE). May is Sexual Violence Awareness Month in Alberta, and May 5 the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

We talked to Meital Siva-Jain, Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Initiatives Team Lead at SACE. Meital shares the programs and resources SACE offers as well as the impact she sees their work having on the community, from youth to older generations.

Tell us about your organization and your role.

The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton’s mandate is to support people impacted by sexual violence and to change the attitudes and values that lead to sexual violence. We offer counselling services to ages 3 and up, support and information lines, police and court support, public education, and community and institutional support. We offer these services to all genders and backgrounds at no fee. We also have a Diversity and Inclusion program that works to ensure our services are accessible to anyone that might need to access them.

I joined SACE in 2014 and have been leading the Diversity and Inclusion program since then. Under this role I focus on building relationships with other organizations and community members to address barriers to services. This role has allowed me to learn from community members about how systemic barriers impact their access to support. I also learned that addressing those barriers is often the support that folks need to do their own healing.

One way to address barriers is to offer tailored content and services. Last summer, a group of SACE staff started creating a resource for newcomers in Canada that provides information on consent and healthy relationship in accessible and inclusive language. This work included many community consultations with partner organizations, and it resulted in the creation of Landed. We are very happy to see how well Landed has been received by the community.   

Is there anything new or innovative your organization is currently promoting or focusing on?

We’re excited to soon be offering the WiseGuyz program to our community; WiseGuyz  is a school-based program for grade nine boys that addresses the issues young men face and gives participants tools to engage in healthy relationships.

We’re also now offering training for professionals and care providers working with older adult populations. The trainings seek to provide those in the elder care sector with the skills and knowledge necessary to be able to recognize sexual violence in their places of work and supportively respond to older adults who have been recently or historically impacted by this issue. We’ll be releasing a one-pager handout and learn article that summarizes key information from the presentation and that service providers can use as a reference and to promote awareness and competency in their workplace around elder sexual abuse. We hope this information will be a reminder to folks that it is never too late to start healing.

How do you see your organization’s impact on the community?

I see our impact in twofold: the impact on survivors of sexual violence and their families, and on the community at large. In terms of survivors, it is important for people of all genders and backgrounds to know they can be heard and accepted. As a survivor, I remember that just the mere existence of a sexual assault centre made me feel acknowledged. So I think that the first impact of SACE is that survivors know there is a place dedicated to support them. Being believed and accepted helps with healing and ultimately contributes to a healthier community.

The second part of our impact is in the community level. Like others in the anti-violence sector, we work hard to promote consent and show that violent behaviours are linked to specific attitudes and values. Our approach is centred on non-victim blaming education, and we use an anti-oppressive lens when working with communities. I am an optimist and see a positive shift in how the public understands sexual violence and addresses it.

What is one thing you wish the community knew about the realities that youth currently face when it comes to sexual health and safety?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, youth are more dependent on social media to connect with their peers. Many of us did not grow with social media and we need to remember that beside social connection it can also offer great resources and support for kids. For example, I hear from my daughter how youth use social media to promote inclusiveness and “cancel” people who use offending behaviours. It is our responsibility to teach kids about sexual health and healthy behaviours, and to provide them with this toolbox to better navigate the digital world. But we also need to trust them when they use it and not blame them if they experience any kind of violence.

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International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia

May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia! This message comes from YESS Youth Worker, Ian Brown:

“YESS demonstrates that our programs are safer spaces by having informed and confident staff who are able to address homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia firmly and in real time. When leaders in the space don’t allow violent and hurtful things to be said to, or about, 2SLGBTQ+ people, we are letting everyone know that they are valued and can exist safely in the space. Symbols of support such as pride flags, ‘safe space’ signs, and introducing pronouns in our daily practice are important, but the most proactive way to create a safer space is setting an explicit boundary against violent, hateful, and hurtful language and actions against 2SLGBTQ+ people, while teaching and modelling accountability for the impact of that behavior.”

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iHuman Youth Society

iHuman Youth Society is a non-profit that believes all young people have gifts to share. In partnership with marginalized young people, they amplify their creative expression, address their needs, and support goals that privilege their voices. They support youth impacted by the negative outcomes associated with poverty, intergenerational trauma, addiction, mental health, abuse, racism, discrimination, and exploitation. Over 500 youth between 12-24 years of age access iHuman every year, 80% of whom self-identify as Indigenous. While iHuman provides free access to their services and programs, they are not a drop-in centre—youth actively engage in determining their individualized journey through iHuman’s resources and guide how they can be supported.

We talked to Steve Pirot, Artistic Director of iHuman Studios, about their mission to invite young artists to use acts of expression to transform their experiences of trauma into experiences of self-worth, purpose, identity, and belonging. 

 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work with iHuman.

My name is Steve Pirot and my job title is Artistic Director of iHuman Studios; prior to working here I was an actor, writer, director, and producer of theatre and festivals. My function at iHuman is to provide direction and oversight to our studio system. I work for a large collective of artists who happen to be between the ages of 12 and 24. My job is to organize schedules, budgets, materials, staff, volunteers, spaces, and shows so that members of that collective have opportunities to express themselves. Sometimes that opportunity for expression will be personal, quiet, private; sometimes that opportunity will be public and effusive. Sometimes my job is to ensure a studio has a gentle vibe for an artist to work undisturbed, and sometimes my job is to bark into a microphone as iHuman’s hype-man.

In coming to iHuman from a mainstream artistic practice, I have had to recalibrate. My definition of art used to be informed by the idea that art was a commodity to be consumed; in that paradigm the idea of The Artist was necessarily elitist, because there needed to be an audience (the majority) that would consume the work created by the artist (the minority). In my practice at iHuman I have transformed to a perspective that art is not a product, but rather it is a process of expression. If you have the capacity to express, then you are an artist, and therefore all people are artists because it does not matter if your artistry is public, or even if it is ever viewed by another person. 

 

Why is art/creativity an important experience for youth to cultivate and have access to?

The essence of art is expression, and it is important for ALL people regardless of age to have the ability to express themselves. Cultivating the tools and habits of self-expression is essential for scores of reasons: to be sound in one’s mind, to build solid relationships, to foster a balanced society. It is especially important to cultivate these habits when younger because the skills one learns through the process of producing beats, or organizing chords, or composing a photograph, or beading earrings, or sewing a ribbon skirt… these are all transferable skills. In essence we are talking about pattern recognition, project planning and execution, communication. At iHuman we don’t look at art as being a product, but rather it is a tool to promote other outcomes. 

 

What is something you wish the community knew about youth who are healing from trauma?

I wish that the community at large was better informed about our brains actually function. How do our brains behave when hijacked by the amygdala? Can we identify the symptoms of an individual in shock? How is an individual in the grip of a flight/fight response able to interact with the world? If the general public were better informed about how human brains work, then we could have a better foundation to have meaningful conversations about more complex issues like multi-generational trauma, addictions, etc.


On April 1, 2021, iHuman is hosting a drive-thru donation event! Drop off donations without leaving your car and enjoy live art and music from iHuman artists!

For more information visit ihuman.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

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Do I Need a Will?

The answer is YES. I believe that every person who is eligible to make a Will, should have a Will. The reasons are many, but here are a few of the most important ones:

  1. People often assume that their immediate family (spouse, common-law partner, adult children) will be able to look after their estate if they pass away. This is incorrect. No person, not even a spouse, has the legal authority to deal with your estate when you pass away. Having a Will makes the process of estate administration much easier because the person you name as your executor (now called your Personal Representative) takes authority from the Will immediately upon your death, and can begin administering certain aspects of your estate right away. Without a Will, no steps can be taken until a grant of administration is obtained from the Court. Even with a Will, your Personal Representative may have to apply for a Grant of Probate in order to deal with some of your assets, but institutions like banks and investment companies are much more cooperative and willing to provide information to the person named in a Will as the Personal Representative than they are to a person making inquiries that has no Will to rely on. By making a Will, you make the process of settling your estate much easier and less stressful for your family and friends who may are left to sort out your estate without any guidance from you and without knowing your wishes.

 

  1. A Will allows you to choose who will act as your Personal Representative and administer your estate. You can choose a person(s) whom you trust and you know will follow your wishes as you have set them out in your Will. If you die without a Will, legislation in Alberta provides a list of the people who have the first right to apply to administer your estate, but that may not be who you would choose to do this job for you.

 

  1. A Will allows you to choose who will receive the proceeds of your estate. Although you have a legal obligation to support your dependents (spouse, common-law partner, minor children, adult children who are unable to earn a livelihood due to a physical or mental disability), you can otherwise make gifts as you choose. If you die without a Will, again there is legislation in Alberta that determines which family members will receive your estate.

 

  1. A Will allows you to leave gifts to a charity or charities in the amounts or proportions you decide. Without a Will, there is no provision for any of your estate to be given to the charities you supported during your lifetime. For many people it is important to them that some of their estate be left to their favorite charities. There are also some income tax benefits to your estate to making charitable gifts in your Will.

 

Making a Will is much easier than most people think. I often have clients comment when they are leaving my office having signed their Wills about how simple and easy the process was, and had they known, they would have done a Will much sooner.

I encourage everyone to make a Will to make it easier for your loved ones to take care of your estate during a sad and stressful time for them, to prevent unnecessary family disputes, and to ensure that your estate is given to those that you want to receive it.

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Breaking Barriers in Mental Health Support

In January, Africa Centre and The Alberta Black Therapists Network launched their new counselling program! This program not only provides free counselling services, but is also part of breaking down barriers and stigma that still surround accessing mental health supports.

We talked to Noreen Sibanda, Executive Director of The Alberta Black Therapists Network, about this new program and its impact on the community.

Tell us about the new counselling program in collaboration with The Africa Centre.

The clinic is funded by the United Way and a collaboration between Africa Centre and The Alberta Black Therapists Network (ABTN). We are proud to offer free counselling support to the African descent community through licensed therapists who have a cultural understanding and offer trauma and healing centered approaches. Our services provide formal, 50-minute, one-to-one counselling sessions in the form of short-term intervention, utilizing solution-focused therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. The services are available over a secure video platform and can be accessed as an individual, group, or couple. We also had secured a donation from Ikea to furnish an office space that we look forward to utilizing when restrictions are lifted.

Why is now an important time for this resource to be available?

We have seen a rise in the need for mental health resources because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now more than ever people need professional support. Unfortunately, despite this desperate need, the barriers to accessing support (cost, long waiting times, stigma), still exist. This service allows people who are struggling with their mental health to connect and not have to worry about costs, as most people cannot afford to access therapeutic support. It allows our community to access services from the organizations that they already know, at no cost and from individuals that share similar lived experiences.

What is something you wish the community knew about youth mental health?

I believe mental health needs to be a part of our overall wellness. Supports services need to include healing, otherwise we are merely treating the symptoms which leads to an overuse of services.

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Keeping Our Neighbours Safe During Extreme Weather

When temperatures drop, Edmontonians can keep warm inside their homes. But where do you go when you don’t have a home? For our vulnerable neighbours experiencing homelessness this is a frightening reality that can be dangerous without contingency plans in place.  

Every winter, members of Edmonton’s homeless-serving sector—comprised of Homeward Trust, the City of Edmonton and more than 25 system partners and agencies—coordinate an emergency response to reduce the risk for people experiencing homelessness by getting them into a safe space as quickly and as easily as possible. The current public health crisis has exacerbated the risk for people experiencing homelessness, highlighting a need for an emergency response that goes beyond extreme weather to address unforeseeable challenges. 

This coordinated response has resulted in a shift in focus to a broader Sector Emergency Response (SER) to reflect the year-round need to ensure networks are in place and active in order to support individuals when shelters are at capacity and the weather takes a turn for the worst.

“We know people experiencing homelessness are already at increased risk. The compounding effects of extreme cold weather and COVID-19 exposure and restrictions only adds to those dangers,” explains Matthew Ward of Homeward Trust. “Our Sector Emergency Response, which builds off existing control measures to keep the COVID-19 virus from spreading, are important steps to help our vulnerable neighbours stay safe.”  

A collaborative and proactive problem-solving approach is taken to address arising challenges, which involves partners working together in sharing timely data and resource information between shelter providers, emergency services, transportation services and other service providers across the City to deliver supports to those who need it. 

Triggers that activate the Sector Emergency Response in winter include temperatures of -20 or below (including windchill) and/or shelter capacity reaching 90% or higher. The response would typically involve lifting bans at shelters under the discretion of providers, opening overflow spaces, increasing current shelter capacity where possible and providing supplementary transportation services. In the past, Edmonton Transit Services has also operated additional buses to serve as a warming space and transport people to shelters.  

And in the summer, extreme heat or poor air quality are conditions that could activate a Sector Emergency Response. The response looks at weather warnings from Environment Canada, existing capacity of the city’s emergency shelters, and other emerging concerns expressed by the group.

While the best solution to homelessness is permanent housing, the Sector Emergency Response ensures that people experiencing homelessness have access to life-saving services in times of immediate crisis and are protected from the risks of COVID-19 and cold weather.  

Winter shelter is available at the following locations: 

For the latest updates on the Sector Emergency Response, visit homewardtrust.ca 

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Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society

It takes all of us working together to create spaces where we can all heal together and thrive together. We talked to Sherry Fowler, Community Engagement Coordinator at Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, about how they create these spaces for the community.

Tell us about your organization.

Bent Arrow is committed to building on the strengths of Indigenous children, youth and families to enable them to walk proudly in two worlds both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous world.

Although Bent Arrow’s programs have Indigenous base to them, we welcome people of all races and backgrounds.

Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society has been serving Indigenous children, youth, and families in Edmonton and area since 1994. 

The founders believed strongly that keeping culture at the centre was crucial and that this important work was best done in partnership. 

Bent Arrow provides programming and services for all ages from pre-natal to seniors ensuring that we look at all programming to ensure we are providing a wholistic perspective encompassing the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing of all participants.

How does your organization bring focus to mental health?

When looking at an individual’s mental health it is done from a wholistic standpoint ensuring we look at the whole person and what needs are not being met.  A person who is struggling in one area may be struggling in all. Mental health supports may include but are not limited to: connection to community and culture through phone calls, video chats, social distance meetings, or meeting face-to-face (in a safe way) with an Elder.

We also offer onsite therapy/counselling sessions for participants of the programs offered at Bent Arrow.

What is one thing you would like the community to know about young people and mental health?

When we look at mental health just remember you are never alone. Many people struggle in silence, don’t be one of them. There are people out there who can help; you just have to let them. You are stronger than you think and braver than most, keep on being strong and talk to someone.

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