Life at YESS

Staff Interview: Rhonda Friskie

Creating a sense of physical safety is such an important part of the work we do! Meet Rhonda, Facilities Maintenance Supervisor, to learn more about the work our Facilities team does and how they are part of creating spaces for healing in our buildings.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am originally from Niagara Falls, Ontario. I have been working at YESS for a little over ten years now. I am a single mom of two amazing boys who definitely keep me on my toes. I love Yoga, Indian food, 80s flicks, and the color pink!

How is your department part of YESS’ mission to walk beside youth on their journey towards healing.

The Facilities department provides youth with a safe, clean, and welcoming environment. We are responsible for performing a variety of cleaning duties, as well as the maintenance, and upkeep of our buildings. A few of those tasks include keeping our donation rooms stocked, providing clean bedding, keeping program areas sanitized, and providing the youth with warm nutritious meals. 

Having lived experience with homelessness as a youth myself, it provides me with the ability to understand their needs, and a different perspective I might not have otherwise.

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

I wish the community could see how strong and resilient these kids are. 

It takes incredible strength to get up and face the world each day with the barriers they have in front of them. Youth experiencing homelessness face all kinds of stereotypes, and people often assume that they somehow brought this on themselves, or that they’re bad kids, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

These are kids. They are just like yours, and mine. All they want is to be accepted, to be seen and heard, and most of all to be loved. 

In my ten years at YESS, I have met some incredible youth, and have been blown away by what some of them have accomplished in their short stay here. It’s amazing what one can do when given the proper resources and having someone believe in them.

Read more

YESS Hours Move to 24/7 Model

When COVID-19 made its way to Canada, Alberta, and then Edmonton, we were all asked to take the necessary steps to be sure that we kept not only ourselves safe, but our neighbors, our families, our friends, and our co-workers.  As an agency we implemented policies to keep our doors open and all of you as safe as possible, which meant adapting our working arrangements to reduce exposure for those of us who are required on site to take care of each other and our youth – that because of all the closures had no where else to go. Out of our responsibility to our community and our youth we made the decision to keep our doors open 24/7 – and we will continue to do so permanently.

This decision is so important and is best explained by our Tessa Mulcair, Manager of Shelters:

“With Nexus covering 8PM-11AM and the Armoury Resource Centre (ARC) 11AM-8PM, every single day, we have seen a dramatic reduction in the stress that our youth face when there are no safe places to be at certain hours of certain days. With COVID-19 affecting many agency/program hours and operational abilities, our youth struggle to have their needs met consistently outside of YESS right now. While the pandemic is still filled with fear for all of us, having the 24/7 model in place ensures that our youth aren’t further compounding that trauma with having to worry about finding shelter/food/bathrooms/etc. during the evening and weekend hours…

“From everyone at YESS, we want to say a huge thank you to all of the staff who have continued to work the frontline through all of the many changes to scheduling and procedures. You are an incredible, inspiring team that has never stopped putting the youth first through this all.”

Read more

Medicine Walks

Shantell Martineau, YESS Programming Coordinator, has been hosting Medicine Walks with youth twice a week for the month of August, right in our own Edmonton River Valley.

On these walks Shantell shares knowledge about the traditional medicines of sage and sweetgrass, medicines she has been taught to pick by kokum (grandmother). Shantell shares with youth how to use these medicines to support spiritual healing and growth.

“We hold a small ceremony at the site where we find these medicines and offer tobacco as an offering to Mother Earth. It is by this offering that we then pick the medicines in a good way to not damage the plants and leave it so it will return for many years to come.

“The ceremony also teaches us how to do our own part to protect Mother Earth, and to think about our own personal footprint we leave behind when we visit the land. Medicine picking does this natural teaching to make us acknowledge that the land is not ours but is a gift for us to protect so future generations can thrive.”

If you are interested in cultural experiences with Indigenous leaders in our community, check out Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society. They post upcoming virtual programming on their Facebook page.

 

About Shantell:

  • Cycle Breaker. I was the first in my family to graduate from high school with a diploma, and the first to attend a university and graduate from post-secondary
  • I am the Mother of three future Cycle Breakers, two dogs, and a cat.
  • Why I do what I do? The youth are the future! Why not do my part and invest in the future. They will change the world if given the opportunity.

 

 

Read more

Mac and Cheese Recipe with YESS Chef Tiffany

Alberta Milk continues to be an awesome YESS partner, donating $6000 this year! Being able to provide healthy and nutritious food for our youth not only fulfills a basic need, it also helps build trust and develop a sense of safety youth feel in our programs.

Alberta Milk is a non-profit organization that represents Alberta’s dairy producers. They support family-owned and operated dairy farms in their work to produce safe, nutritious food in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way.

Get a serving of dairy and follow along with Program Kitchen Coordinator and YESS Chef Tiffany Sorensen to upgrade a box of mac and cheese! Tiffany has been making instructional cooking videos that feature common ingredients or items from emergency food hampers to share with youth who are learning to cook.

For more recipes with Alberta Milk visit albertamilk.com.

 

Upgraded Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

Box of mac and cheese
Protein of choice
Onion, chopped
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 tbsp butter
1-2 tbsp flour
¾ cup of milk
Herbs (such as thyme or sage)
Kale or spinach
Salt and pepper
Grana Padano or parmesan

 

1. Add salt to boiling water, then add the pasta. Cook for approximately 8 minutes until al dente.

2. Strain noodles and set aside. Save ¼-1/2 cup of pasta water for sauce later.

3. Warm up a pan, add 1 tbsp of oil and cook protein of choice on low-medium heat to render the fat without burning. Once cooked, set protein aside to be added later.

4. In the same pan, saute onions on low-medium heat.

5. Add 1 tbsp of garlic and saute with onions.

6. Add butter to the pan and melt. Add flour and cook on low to prevent burning. Flour should be golden.

7. Incorporate milk while stirring. Simmer to thicken.

8. Add herbs, cheese packet (about ¼ of package that came in the mac and cheese box), cooked protein, pasta water, kale/spinach, and cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper—be mindful that the cheese packet also has salt and taste as you go.

9. Finish with Grana Padano or cheese of choice.

Read more

Meet the Youth Education and Employment Team

This story with our Trauma Care Team was originally published in our Spring 2020 newsletter (March 6).

In 2019, YESS launched the Youth Education and Employment Program, a 12-week program that focuses on job readiness skills like cover letter writing and interview skills, workshops for job-specific trainings, and practicum opportunities to help youth identify their career goals. While youth learn work skills, staff provide support and a range of other services to help youth achieve and maintain employment.

This new program is spearheaded by Amanda Van Huenen and Melissa Johnson. Amanda has been a youth worker for eight years and started at YESS in 2018 as a youth worker. Melissa started at YESS in 2015 as a resource worker soon after graduating with her Social Work Diploma. While education and employment have always been part of the focus for youth at YESS, Amanda and Melissa have developed a program that provides intentional career and job training and support all within YESS, so youth don’t have to search out other programs to access these opportunities. This has helped remove barriers for youth who need wraparound support to heal from their trauma and start setting goals for the future.

We sat down with Amanda and Melissa to talk about their experiences in facilitating the first 12-week group of the Youth Education and Employment Program.

Describe the new Youth Education and Employment Program and what it provides for youth.

MJ: The program is 12 weeks. We’re going to do four rounds of it, 16 youth per round. The youth get different tickets, they do different job shadows, they get eight weeks of practicum experience they can put on their resumes, and then we support them move into whatever their goals are, whether that’s education or employment. We help remove barriers to things like work clothes, bus tickets. We’ll provide them with transportation if they need it. All those things that they might not otherwise be able to get on their own. The program has all the support and we’re here all the time if they need anything. We’ve seen a lot of growth already.

AVH: I noticed when I started that there was a gap between youth keeping a job and the skills they need. It was easy to find a job, but a month later they were back at the office saying, “I need to find a new job” or “I need twenty resumes” or things like that. I noticed that gap and I wanted to develop a program that was taking away all those barriers they were facing and give them those tools and the experience of what it is like to be out there working.

[The youth] are getting paid for the twelve weeks. That’s one of the biggest things. It’s helping the youth to start saving or getting housing or finally buying that cell phone that they need to feel safe, so they can make a phone call if something happens. It helps our work in being harm reductive because they don’t have to steal stuff so they can have a sandwich or something. Or maybe they have an addiction and they had to do sketchy stuff for that and now they don’t because now they can provide for it. In a harm reductive way, this program is helping with that.

What are the shadow shift opportunities available?

MJ: We’re trying to have a bank of opportunities to have in a variety of industries based on what the youth are interested in. We want the youth to get into things they enjoy. Landscaping, carpentry, restaurants and kitchens, retail, construction. Those are the big ones.

AVH: Some of our youth are interested in careers, but most of them are looking for entry-level positions.

MJ: The practicums are great in that way. You see youth who think they’re interested in something and then they do the practicum and it’s not really for them. They realize more about themselves.

AVH: We have those conversations with them. We tell them that it’s okay to not know what they want to do. Some of them are very young, fifteen, sixteen. So it’s okay to explore those things. It’s very good for the youth who don’t have a healthy family situation or people who have no home or safety that they can explore these things. It’s very good to have that freedom to do that and not be judged for it. They already get judged for so many other things, right? So to give them that opportunity is good for most of them.

The YESS mission is to walk beside youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration. How do you think the Youth Education and Employment Program is part of that overall vision?

MJ: We really sit down with the youth and we find out what they want and what their goals are. We could plan out a whole life for them and just say “follow this plan.” But we really sit down with them in an interview process, asking them what they want and what they goals are. We’re pushing them towards those goals and we’re there the whole time for support. We’re checking in with them on their practicums, making sure they’re being accountable. But it’s definitely them who lead the way and we give them the resources and remove the barriers so they can accomplish those. And then there’s the “after” support, helping them transition out and integrate into community, so they meet with a transitions worker, they meet with a navigator. They still need to find jobs, go to school, do their resumes, so there’s still a lot of things to do.

AVH: I don’t think of this as just an employment program. We work with the whole team. Everybody here in support services or the trauma team are part of this program. Everyone is putting their hand in—we’re getting referrals here, we’re going there, we have meetings with others. It’s teamwork. Before employment was just focused on employment, but now we’re working as a team.

We have the youth reflect on themselves, give them control over what they want and what their future looks like. And then we work as a team around that to meet those needs, instead of us making those decisions for them. That’s what I like about this program a lot, is that its one big team working towards that program.

What’s something you wish the wider community knew about YESS youth?

AVH: Their potential. They’re individually unique. They all have something to give. I think a lot of times people see this population as failures, trouble, problems, write them off. That whole negative aspect… They’re just youth. They’re kids. They’re young adults suffering from somebody else’s mistake and we don’t need to constantly put this negativity on them.

MJ: All of our youth have potential and they just need the opportunity. This is the start of an opportunity, but then they need community as well. We need to allow them to be hired at jobs, to be mentored, to be given these things. So having compassion and giving them opportunities because they all have potential. We see so many kids who leave us and go on to be successful in the community and we want more people to help them do that.

Is there a particular remarkable experience you’ve had since launching the Youth Education and Employment Program?

MJ: The youth who we’ve had in our services for a long time, like we’ve had kids who have been here for years, and to see them finally working on something, getting jobs, getting trades tickets, working on resumes, and picturing bigger goals for themselves. I think seeing youth doing that makes this all worth it.

AVH: Because the program’s in-house and specific for our population, to have that develop around them. Every child is different, every child learns differently and it’s the same for our youth. And having such a program that’s created around them makes them feel welcome and like they can succeed.

We have 10 youth graduating from group 1! So that’s a success right there.


If your organization is interested in partnering with our Youth Employment and Education Program as a shadow shift or practicum partner, contact us at 780-468-7070. These opportunities to gain job experience and have a positive, supportive community are a huge part of the healing journey for our youth.

COVID-19 has had a large impact on youth in the Youth Education and Employment Program. We had youth who were unable to finish their work practicums, as well youth that were unable to even start their practicum. Some youth had been doing so well and were being asked to stay on with their practicum as a full-time staff, which unfortunately was unable to happen once COVID-19 forced businesses to lay off most staff. We also had to postpone their graduation from the program as well as the bonus the get once completed. Our group 3 which was to start in March was also postponed until further notice.

With there being limited employment opportunities for anyone during this time it has also made it very difficult for our youth to obtain employment. With no income it is difficult for our youth to work towards their goals including getting a place of their own.

 

The Youth Education and Employment Program is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy

 

Thank you to the Youth Education and Employment Program group 1 and group 2 partners:

Atlantic Fence

Boston Pizza Whyte Ave

Home Depot

Inland Audio and Visual

MC College

Trinity Youth Project

Waiward Industrial

Walk the Talk

YESS Kitchen

Every gift of every size is an investment in the future of our community. Together we can create a community where we can all heal together and thrive together.

Donate Now!

Read more

Meet the YESS Trauma Care Team

This story with our Trauma Care Team was originally published in our Winter 2019 newsletter.

In 2018, we updated our vision to focus on walking beside traumatized youth on their journeys towards healing. In 2019, that vision came closer into focus with the introduction of our own internal Trauma Care Team and we want to introduce you to the incredible folks doing the work of helping our youth heal.

Marcia East has a Master’s in Counselling and Social Work and worked with children, youth, and parents for 12 years in Jamaica. When she moved to Canada in 2015, she started working at YESS in our transitional housing program. In her newest role as part of the Trauma Care Team, Marcia facilitates group and family support sessions.

Bethany Zelent has a Master’s of Counselling and Psychology. For the past four years she has worked as an addictions counsellor and she also has experience working with vulnerable populations and people transitioning out of homelessness. Bethany facilitates individual therapy sessions.

Bethany, you were totally new to the YESS team when you started a few months ago. What brought you to YESS?

After working for so long in addictions it was really inspiring to see people reclaim their life after sometimes twenty, thirty years struggling with addiction, but it was also a little disheartening that people had lost so much of their lives to addiction. I wanted to focus more on prevention, working with people in the early stages because I saw with the women I was working with if they had had intervention in and around the time when the addiction started that they could have been saved a lot of pain. So that was a huge motivation for me to focus more on kids and youth. Also seeing the limbo that youth are in in terms of accessing services. A lot of times they are either too young for services or not bad enough—there’s this weird line where you have to have a certain number of struggles but not so bad that you’re outside an agency’s scope of practice.

How do you feel your work contributes to the YESS vision of walking beside traumatized youth on their journeys towards healing?

BZ: That, to me, is the pinnacle of what we do. I think one of the key words in there for me is “beside,” that we’re not behind, we’re not in front of, and that goes along with our own therapeutic model that the client is the expert in their own life.

ME: Being an ally to youth is a significant part of my own vision in working with people from difficult realities. It is of utmost importance to remember that the population I work with have experiences which are rooted in trauma and, therefore, their behaviours will reflect that truth. I am cognizant of the space that I create for them – one that will facilitate safety and care and encourage movement towards finding the true self.

BZ: There are symptomologies of their traumatized experiences. And that’s what we really target: that trauma is the problem, behaviour is not. Behaviour is a symptom of the trauma. We can do behavioural techniques all day long and they might work on the outside, but there won’t be lasting change because the tree is still rotten. The foundation of it is still trauma. Trauma finds really creative ways to express itself in all sorts of ways.

Marcia, in your role in leading and facilitating group sessions, how have you seen the program evolve over the last few months?

ME: Initially, it was very slow in starting. Now it is becoming a little more stable as group sessions are being offered in the residential programs and youth are warming up to the idea.

Bethany, how have you seen your side of the trauma program—individual counselling—evolve since it started?

BZ: I think there was a healthy level of skepticism from youth at the beginning. The youth have so many reasons not to trust me and I view that as my role, that I have to prove myself as trustworthy. Since we first started there has been a huge level of acceptance from the youth and the staff working together in that. The youth see going to therapy as a viable option for them; they don’t see it as something they have to go somewhere else for. It has become much more normalized, just like going to the doctor is here, just like getting their ID, just like going to the employment program, it’s a very normal thing. One of the best things with therapy, and this is outside of YESS as well, is word-of-mouth advertising. It’s very powerful. I notice that when a few youth would come, more youth would be interested. That is something that’s really important too is for them to be able to say, “I see a change in my friend. I would like that change as well.” I think there’s more openness to taking down the stigma for mental health as well, being able to ask for the help they need, and our regular presence here helps them know that we’re the trauma team.

What’s something you wish the community knew about YESS youth?

BZ: I think one of the biggest things is to remind them that they are youth. That a lot of the behavioural expressions we see are really, really normal for an adolescent to do. It is very normal. Oftentimes because [YESS youth] are in a position of being independent, we kind of project adult expectations onto them, but they physiologically don’t have the brain development to be able to meet those expectations because they are teenagers. A lot of the behavioural expressions that we see like substance use, like stealing—those are all very normal for any adolescent across any socioeconomic status and we cannot hold youth to a higher standard than what their brain can occupy. We certainly can’t hold traumatized individuals to a standard that is higher than what they can actively do and we can’t hold traumatized youth to a standard that’s beyond what their capacity is. I think that’s what I would focus the most on is that they’re still adolescents.

ME: Also that our youth are not “choosing” to remain in difficult situations. They are being impacted by the traumas of their past and they are doing their best to cope with these realities, and are struggling to be resilient despite their history.

Is there a particular remarkable experience you’ve have at YESS?

ME: My most recent remarkable experience comes from working with a youth who struggles with anger issues. I am encouraged by his determination to summon his inner resources for the work he is doing.  I am also inspired by the effort and energy he is investing and note how the successes he experiences serve to build his self-efficacy and to further strengthen his resolve.

BZ: In starting therapy I usually ask the client how they feel and then I ask them again at the end so we can track if there’s a change and how our process is going. I started one session with a client who said he felt suffocated from anxiety. He indicated that there was a lot of tension in his chest. We ended up having a two and a half hour session and at the end he said that was the most relaxed he had ever been in his entire life and that he had this feeling of calm where there had been tension. I don’t take any credit for that whatsoever. I think that’s primarily his own work. It is really cool to be a witness to people’s journeys and processes. That he was able to sit with himself for those two and a half hours and attend to himself and be present in a way that he is normally trying to escape. That is amazing.


In the wake of the  COVID-19 crisis, there have been some updates to the way the Trauma Care Team works with youth.

The manner in which we offer therapeutic and supportive services have primarily shifted from face-to-face to virtual modalities. For example, individual and group sessions are being carried out through means of video and telephone media, instead of meeting in a physical space. Currently, we have ceased walk-in therapy and new client intakes, as we are trying to figure out the best approach in facilitating these needs within our current context of operations. Program visits have also shifted to using online means, in reaching youth as well.

The difficulty of using online platforms for therapeutic purposes is that it decreases the ability to support youth in a therapeutic space and provide immediate trauma support for panic attacks, emotional regulation and more.  The youth are not able to connect as well, via video conference or teleconferencing, which doesn’t allow for the full support they may need in the moment.  It is also not easy to build up trust and relationships via video or telephone and therefore, even with this technology available, we are having to adapt our delivery and services to help support the youth who need it.

Every gift of every size is an investment in the future of our community. Together we can create a community where we can all heal together and thrive together.

Donate Now!

Read more

Major TLC for the YESS Kitchen

In December our Whyte Ave kitchen underwent a major renovation. This kitchen is instrumental in providing nutritious meals for the hundreds of youth who access YESS every year across our overnight shelter, daytime resource centre, and supportive housing programs. Providing meals is a huge part of our trauma informed care practice and is an important aspect of creating an environment of felt safety for the traumatized youth in our programs. This renovation was made possible with a grant from The Home Depot Foundation, who are committed to supporting initiatives that prevent and end youth homelessness in Canada, and an amazing donations from our friends at the Community of Christ Church.

“This is a great expensive gift for Christmas!” says YESS Chef Reddy Manikyala. “Along with the new kitchen team members, our kitchen is now running smoothly and able to make all new creations. The kitchen looks 100% commercial now compared to the old one. We also got a new grill and we plan to make good use of it.”

This renovation project was an incredible opportunity for all of the YESS departments to work together to keep the agency organized, across Kitchen and Facilities, Programs, Funds Development, and Administration. We also got to work with incredible collaborators at Allegiance Mechanical Inc., Amalgamated Food Equipment, The Carpet Studio, Interspace Construction, Nordic Mechanical, Tricom Electrical Services, and WHA Industries.

While no renovation is ever easy, the hard work has already paid off as the Whyte Ave kitchen takes on another role in the lives of youth: classroom. YESS Chef Tiffany Sorensen is our Program Kitchen Coordinator and leads the culinary practicum for youth in the Youth Education and Employment Program.

“The new kitchen renovations have made a world of a difference not only for us as chefs, but also for the student chefs that are part of the Youth Education and Employment Program,” says Tiffany. “The youth in the placement can now learn out of a more professional work space, and with the new equipment we have more options to cook and teach on. Youth are able to learn a variety of cooking techniques and can receive hands on training with using commercial equipment like the grill, griddle, steamer, and gas stove. The renovations are really helping to give the youth a more realistic experience with a variety of skills and will set them up for success to work in future kitchens and/or restaurants.”

As Reddy said, this renovation was an amazing Christmas gift that will be an incredible asset to our youth and our programs for years to come. We have found that cooking and sharing meals has always created an incredible sense of community, and it means so much to grow that community with all the partners who made this renovation possible!


A HUGE thank you to these restaurants who provided breakfast and lunch for youth in our programs while our kitchen was being renovated!

Meals are a huge part of creating felt safety for our youth and it meant so much to us to see so many restaurants step forward to help!

A&W

Barb & Ernie’s Old Country Inn

Boston Pizza

De Dutch

El Cortez

High Level Diner

McDonald’s

Oodle Noodle

Original Joe’s

The Parlour

Popeyes

Subway

Read more

Letter from Margo – Spring 2020

Hello everyone and Happy Spring!

YESS started 2020 with a very strong financial profile and a lot of excitement about the momentum we are gaining. We spent the winter months taking care of each other, celebrating some of our wins, and continuing to build upon our growing foundation of structure, processes, and trauma-informed practice. We have seen significant successes with the work of our Trauma Support Team (we have delivered over 100 individual therapy sessions and many informal group sessions since April 2019, and we have seen our EPS and crisis calls decrease) and we have been thrilled with the success of our new Youth Education and Employment Program that provides a low-barrier entrance into life, education, and employment skills as well as job shadowing and work experience with corporate community partners. We have also been working hard with our youth agency and homelessness partners to develop and improve our city strategy for the prevention of youth homelessness. In the coming year, we will begin initial planning around evolving YESS to fit within a municipal and provincial strategy for the prevention of youth homelessness. Prevention can be both early prevention (ensuring a young person never becomes homeless) and later prevention (ensuring a young person doesn’t become further entrenched in homelessness). At YESS, we are focused on late prevention—ensuring that the youth who visit us have the connections back to family or safe housing situations as well as life skills, emotional regulation, relationship building, and  trauma healing support to help them safely and appropriately integrate into community.

As the sun shines and the new shoots and bulbs grow outside, we are furiously growing our capacity and our knowledge to prepare for the big work ahead of us.

This spring, I invite you to join us in our excitement about the future—celebrating is much more fun together!

YESS Executive Director Margo Long's signature

Read more

Letter from Margo – Winter 2019

Good winter, everyone,

As I age and move through the cold months with more focus on my discomfort, I realize I have lost my childhood joy of the gifts of winter: the snow, the bright sun, the quiet contemplation, and the wrapping of ourselves in warm comfort.  We say good evening, as we greet our fellow humans in the glow of the moonlight, intentionally appreciating the gifts of the night and acknowledging the blanket of comfort and renewal that it can bring. And so, I am choosing now to acknowledge the gifts and the joy of winter with an intentional greeting of good winter and a smile.

I have spent weeks thinking about what to write about for this edition. These letters are important to me. They help me remember what to focus on. What do I need to say? What is it time for? 

And I have been lost. 

I have been lost for a while now. 

I have been lost in the intense mission of this powerful yet delicate organization. I have been lost in the frustration and anger of a system and community that is so unfairly balanced. I have been lost in the pain of the young people I see hurting everyday: lost in their deaths, their abandonment, and their disappearances. I have been lost in the pain of a staff that is exhausted and hurt and yet still so dedicated to a solution. I have been lost in my own pain in experiencing this, and the pain of my family, both as they navigate their own lives and as they experience my pain with me. 

I chose to move into the not for profit space because my heart hurt—I needed passion and purpose (and boy did I find it). 

But I left something behind: joy. 

And I realized this week, I didn’t lose joy. 

I left it. 

I refused it. 

I let myself feel the deep hurt of our young people, of our parents and families, of the staff, of my fellow CEOs and EDs, of communities, and of my own family. But I did not let myself experience joy. How could I when there is so much suffering, when there is so much work to be done?

My intention was true—I wanted to help. But I became so lost in the trauma that I forgot what brings us out.

The opposite of trauma, in my perspective, is joy. Laughter, dance, sunshine, sport, art, music, math—whatever lights you up. Joy is vulnerable and open. It lets the light in to heal and detoxify. It is not a state that we achieve only when we are done feeling our trauma, it is something we choose to allow so that we can heal, a little bit at a time. 

In my own denial of joy, I realize that I have denied others the experience and leadership of my joy. My joy is powerful and contagious. Our joy is a gift to ourselves and others. As much as we need bearing witness of our painful stories, our collective experiences of joy can heal us all.

And so, what is it time for at YESS? It is time for a little bit of joy. We have come a long way in 2 1/2 years. We have emerged out of some very hard times and while I know there are more ahead of us, it is time to celebrate and be vulnerable in our joy. 

This good winter, I wish that you give yourselves the permission to feel JOY and celebrate the good things with us, with your loved ones, with your community. 

Together, we can heal, a little bit at a time. 

 

With my own love and joy,

YESS Executive Director Margo Long's signature

 

(header photo by Leroy Schulz)

Read more

Winter Warming

In the winter months our Armoury Resource Centre operates on extended hours to provide a safe and warm place for youth who might otherwise have to risk the elements outside. We work with other vulnerable youth supporting agencies to determine these hours so that between us we are always providing youth with a safe place and also taking care of frontline youth workers to prevent burnout.

Armoury Resource Centre Winter Hours – effective November 15, 2019 to March 15, 2020:

Monday 9AM-8PM Friday 9AM-2PM, 5PM-8PM
Tuesday 9AM-4PM Saturday 9AM-2PM
Wednesday 9AM-4PM Sunday 9AM-8PM
Thursday 9AM-4PM

For youth who are leaving the Armoury Resource Centre to go to another program, we always strive for a “warm handoff” and allow youth to wait indoors for their pickup rather than off property.

Exposure to winter weather is dangerous for individuals experiencing homelessness. You are part of the community keeping vulnerable people safe this winter season.

Here are some ways our city works together to keep everyone safe in times of extreme cold:

  • if you see someone on the streets who you believe is in distress, call 211 to speak to the 24/7 diversion team
  • additional winter warming sites open throughout the city with extended hours
  • in the event that shelters are at or near capacity and extreme cold (-20 or colder) is in the forecast, LRT stations will open as overnight warming sites
  • in times of extreme cold, ETS vehicles will not deny passengers without tickets

It takes all of us to keep everyone in our community safe and warm in the winter months. It is a good time to remember how much we can all take care of each other.

Read more