Life at YESS

Meet the Navigators!

Within YESS Programs is an incredible team we refer to as our navigators. As navigators, Natalie Morgan and Dupe Adedeji help connect youth and families to resources within YESS and our community. Get to know Natalie and Dupe and why they are so passionate about their work with youth!

Tell us a bit about yourselves!

Natalie Morgan: I have been in my role with YESS for almost four years, but I have been in the community service field for over 13 years, having worked under the umbrella of Homeward Trust with affiliated agencies such as Capital Region Housing, Bill Reese YMCA, and now YESS. My educational background is within radio broadcasting. I always tell people this field of work found me and I am happy it did.

I remained with the YMCA until I got pregnant with my son and took some years to be a stay-at-home mom until I decided to re-enter the social services field in 2017 with YESS. The rest is history!

Dupe Adedeji: I studied Psychology at the University of Guelph and graduated at the end of 2014. I moved to Edmonton in early 2015 when I became employed at YESS. It was my first professional work experience and I was excited to work in the human services field and apply some of my educational background to my job. I started my role as a resource centre staff and then became a client navigator until I left to work at another agency in 2017. I returned in 2019 when the position of a second client navigator opened up at YESS!

Describe the role of “navigator” and how this work is part of walking beside youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration.

NM: In this role, I speak with youth and parents/guardians about how YESS can support them all, whether it be shelter at the Nexus Overnight Shelter, group home placement, education, addiction and mental health referral supports, employment referral to our Youth Education and Employment Program, or family reunification.

DA: As a navigator, we support youth by empowering them to make the best decisions for themselves. We often walk alongside youth on their journeys from start to finish. This can be in the form of us providing resources in order for the youth to make the best-informed decision, calling or texting to check in on where they’re at with their goal plan, driving them to get identification, coaching them prior to speaking with a potential landlord, or supporting them by accompanying them to meetings that they’re anxious to have.

NM: This role as a navigator is very personal as we handle the ICM (Intensive Care Management) portion with the youth. In this role we walk alongside them through parts of their lives which can be triggering and painful to the youth, but we remind them of how strong they are and how far they have come on their own. We take no credit in how far a youth has come because it is their own endurance, motivation, and inner strength which allows them to reach their goal.

DA: As a majority of our youth don’t have dependable supports in their personal lives, we as navigators often fill in that gap and gradually step back as they become more confident in their journey towards independence and community integration.

NM: I say we are their coach and cheerleader all in one, cheering for them and reminding them to refocus when they get off course. I feel that knowing we won’t give up on them, even when they do, is a key component to walking along side our youth and integrating them back into the community.

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

 DA: One thing I wish the community knew about YESS youth is that they can be very resilient. Despite major challenges faced by our youth specifically with homelessness, they are still able to find and access resources that would meet their needs. Some of our youth are homeless and sleep at the shelter, but still find ways to continue schooling because education is important to them, or still make it in to work and important meetings. I am glad to be able to support youth on their journeys to success despite the difficult realities they face.  

NM: One thing I wish the community knew about our youth is how amazing they are as young people and how, for the most part, they are just like any typical teenager. They are trying to figure out who they are, what they want, what their purpose in life is. The only difference is they do it with no family, regular hugs, or positive words of affirmation. They are blindly navigating this crazy world and they are doing it wonderfully. I am proud of them every day.

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February Message from Margo

We need the most love when we are being our most unlovable.

Whether you are a fan of Erma Bombeck, or TV’s Lucifer Morningstar, this quote never loses its impact, in my opinion.

This February, our focus is empathy and understanding—the response needed most when we see others (and ourselves) displaying dysregulated, problematic, risky, or even disrespectful behaviour. If we can remember that hurt people hurt people, that substance use is comfort-seeking and escape from often very adverse experiences, and that desperation, crisis, and lack of control in one’s situation can lead to decisions based out of fear and survival, we can focus more on root cause and less on symptoms.

We talk a lot in our sector, in our government, and in our community, about prevention. By focusing on (and in many cases even condemning) the symptoms of community breakdown, poverty, and adverse experiences we prevent prevention. Life is very hard for young adults facing crises and home instability—life is very hard for all of us at the moment. What we need now, more than ever, is empathy and understanding—for ourselves and for each other. We are stronger together and we heal…together.

 

YESS Executive Director Margo Long's signature

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Youth Education and Employment Program Successes

We have completed our first year of the Youth Education and Employment Program. Thanks to our partners, this program has already been a success! Because YESS focuses on low-barrier access, the Youth Education and Employment Program has been able to support youth who might not have had access to other education and employment resources.

These supporters are having a direct and positive impact on the lives of youth in Edmonton. Thank you for being part of the community walking beside youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration.

 

Youth Education and Employment Program Partners

Atlantic Fence

Boston Pizza Whyte Ave

Evergreen Recycling

FIND Edmonton

Home Depot Strathcona

Inland Audio Visual

MC College

McDonald’s

Trinity Youth Project

Waiward Steel

Walk the Talk

YESS Kitchen

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New YESS Artwork

We were so excited to premiere the incredible artwork from local artist Jonathan Busch on the cover of our 2019/2020 Annual Report. This was a very special project spearheaded by Manager of Shelters Tessa Mulcair.

Hear more from Tessa on her aim for this project, get to know Jonathan, and learn how this collaboration created some incredible artwork!

Our youth are incredibly diverse in so many ways, they represent many cultures, races, religions, sexual orientations, gender expressions, and different neuro and physical abilities. When youth who are experiencing trauma are looking for support it can difficult for them to know where they will be accepted. I wanted to have some artwork created that could signal to youth that they will be accepted at YESS, that these diversities would never be a barrier to getting the support that they need from us.

I have had the pleasure of being a judge for an annual YESS fundraiser drag competition that Jonathan has organized, and through that have become acquainted with his incredible art. I was drawn to having Jonathan do the art for our youth because the portraits he does have a modern edginess to the them and manage to reflect emotion and mood authentically. I was not disappointed! The art he created for YESS captures not just the diversity of our youth but the spirit and individuality is reflected so well. From the pensive gaze to the all out sass, and many expressions in between.

Get to Know Artist Jonathan Busch

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m a queer artist, drag queen, and public library employee, born and raised in Saskatchewan. I make digital art, mostly portraits but other stuff, which I like to share online, also on t-shirts, fridge magnets, stickers, and other kinds of homemade merch. I also do commissioned artworks for a variety of clients. I have two cats.

What was the vision and collaboration behind the new YESS artwork?

Tessa approached me about creating an artwork for the YESS Facebook banner, and I was definitely on board. It was all her vision and also general design, which cohered very well with my style of work.

She and I had also collaborated on a fundraiser for YESS, a drag competition called Mz. Arthaus, which I organized and hosted. To be honest, the project came about more or less because I wanted to host my own competition-style event, and often such events make great fundraisers. A chance conversation with Tessa led me to want to raise funds for YESS, which I had heard of through various channels. It seemed like a perfectly suitable choice because I see drag events as opportunities to inspire and empower others through creativity and to build each other up with self expression. There seems to be a shared interest there.

What is something you wish the community knew about YESS youth?

I guess I just wish people knew that the YESS youth exist, and that YESS itself exists to help provide the empowerment and support that all young people require and deserve to flourish in their lives and society, that it’s going into building a better world.

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The Love, YEG Show Interview with Desiree

Thank you so much to The Love, YEG Show and Legacy YEG for having our very own Desiree on their podcast! Check out the episode below!

From The Love, YEG Show:

Supporting Youth in YEG since 1981…

Desiree Concepcion of Youth Empowerment and Support Services speaks about how they transition & empower youth from traumatic situations to supporting themselves by providing food, clothes, safe shelter & many programs.

They’ve had to shift big time since the pandemic & continue to lead our youth through a trauma informed approach supporting & empowering them every step of the way!

 

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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.

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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.”

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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.

 

 

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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.

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Pride at YESS

“I am passionate about making YESS as safe and as inclusive as it can be for the queer and trans youth who walk through our doors. It is important for these youth to feel like they have access to compassionate and supportive staff as they discover their identity, sometimes for the first time in a judgement-free environment. Doing my best to offer that space consistently inspires me. There are no words to describe the feeling of making someone comfortable enough to be themselves!”

Emilie Duchesne
Resource Worker

Emilie was included in the 2019 Top 30 Under 30: The Gender Equality Edition by the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation for her work with YESS, Comité Francoqueer de l’Ouest, and Francophonie Jeunesse de l’Alberta (FJA)

Being a safe support is one of the most important things we do for our youth.

How do we do that?

Our staff understand and are trained in 2SLGBTQ+ issues and offer non-judgmental relationship building.

All YESS program spaces are gender neutral, including washrooms and dorms. Gendered spaces can be difficult for youth in transition, and are also excluding to non-binary people. Removing barriers of gender wherever possible makes sense.

We have in-house programs for 2SLGBTQ+ youth and allies that provide spaces to be vulnerable and grow. We have a Mxn’s Group and Womxn’s Group that acknowledge the importance of gender identity and do not exclude trans people.

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