In May 2020 the City of Edmonton was in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the EXPO Centre was opened to support adults experiencing housing instability in their isolation and pandemic needs. Immediately, youth-servicing agencies noticed a significant gap in pandemic supports for youth aged 15–25.
The indoor public spaces and buildings that young people accessed during the day were no longer accessible, public transit was unavailable, and they were prohibited from being outside in public spaces. To further limit support for them, many agencies were closing for weeks at a time with quarantines. It was clear that much stronger collaboration and communication was needed to support youth in crisis during this time and in September 2020, YESS co-launched the Edmonton Coordinated Youth Response with our youth agency partners, Boyle Street Community Services and iHuman Youth Society.
The Edmonton Coordinated Youth Response (CYR) is a growing group of youth-serving agencies across the city committed to ensuring that young people receive timely, trauma-informed access to basic needs, pandemic support, and same-day virtual connections to other agencies. Through the CYR online platform, young people can access food, shelter, clothing, and housing connections from various agencies as well as access screening, testing, and safe isolation.
The CYR includes youth-serving agencies, schools, and secondary service partners such as Children’s Services and the Edmonton Police Service (EPS). In January 2021, the Edmonton Coordinated Youth Response was given an Indigenous name by Elder Kokum Rose Wabasca: kanaweyim oskayak (pronounced CAN-ah-WEEM oh-SKY- YAK), which means “taking care of the youth.” And, as of February 2021, young people can access or get information on kanaweyim oskayak by texting or calling 211. The Coordinated Youth Response, kanayweim oskayak, is also a pilot project to practice coordination and integration between agencies within our Youth Agency Collaboration (YAC) work to build a long-term, city-wide plan for a collaboration, integrated network of care model for the prevention of youth homelessness.