Youth Empowerment & Support Services (YESS)
Theory of Change
True transformation comes through relationships.
To walk beside traumatized youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration.
Based in Edmonton, Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS) provides immediate and low-barrier 24/7 shelter, daytime programs and resources, temporary supportive housing, and individualized wrap-around supports for young people aged 15–24.
We work collaboratively within a network of care focused on the prevention of youth homelessness by providing youth with the necessary supports to stabilize their housing, improve their wellbeing, build life skills, connect with community, and avoid re entry into homelessness.
Youth Homelessness in Edmonton
From April 2022 to March 2023, YESS served 697 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 who had experienced housing instability and trauma. These young people did not choose to experience homelessness; instead, they are fighting to survive their experiences with trauma (abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation, violence, discrimination, and more). Living in survival mode comes from trauma in the home, trauma within families, and trauma within their communities. Most often, youth in survival mode need access to resources for basic needs first and have to build up trust that services and agencies are able to help them build their own future in the community. We know from brain development research that healthy connections and relationships are needed to move past trauma and grow into healthier adults.
The Cycle of Unaddressed Trauma
It is our belief that if these traumatic experiences are left unaddressed in young people, it will most likely create cyclic barriers to healing and moving forward with their lives in a positive way in community. Some of these barriers and results include addiction, mental illness, abuse, and criminal involvement. YESS has reorganized its structure and processes to be trauma-informed, created an internal trauma and mental health psychology team called the Wellness Integration Team, and has created an evaluation framework to help youth identify what life skills they still need to develop and where they are in their healing journey.
It is our belief that if we give youth safe space, consistent and non-judgemental support and teaching, and the time to choose their own path to success, we can prevent further entrenchment into the cycles of trauma and homelessness.
We focus on prevention and diversion out of homelessness. Prevention means providing proactive resources for youth and their caregivers before youth become homeless. Diversion means finding appropriate housing for youth before they become entrenched or as an exit out of homelessness.
We focus on healing trauma through relationship. Trauma has a negative impact on the physical, emotional, and developmental well-being of an individual. Among many other serious effects, trauma can have a lasting impact on the ability to develop healthy relationships.
We focus on walking beside youth to minimize falling through gaps. Barriers are policies or expectations that put resources out of reach of those who need them. These restrictions often prevent people from seeking help.
We focus on collaboration (with everyone). Collaboration means we work together with other organization and in line with local, provincial, and national plans to create a holistic approach to addressing homelessness.
Our 24/7 sleep shelter gives youth a safe, secure, and immediate place to sleep and seek shelter, any time of the day. The shelter is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and provides beds for sleeping, basic needs like food, clothing, showers, laundry, school supplies, and packed lunches for youth attending school. This is a safe place for all youth with support and access to staff who are trained to deal with diverse client needs. We are 2SLGBTQIA+ friendly, we have harm reduction-minded staff, with suicidal ideation intervention and safety planning. We also provide on-site trauma support to help with sleep anxiety, problem solving, and emotional regulation. Youth who stay in shelter will also receive justice support from staff, as our organization works closely with Edmonton Police Service beat officers to understand charges and pathways through the system. Staff work to build community support connections before youth leave program to ensure supports exist beyond their time at YESS.
Daytime Programs and Resources
Daytime resources and programs are now offered through our Whyte Avenue building. This includes medical care, addictions and mental health counselling, help with continuing education and employment, art therapy and programming, recreational activities, life skills and employment readiness, and help with housing resources. Programs provide youth with basic needs and shelter from the elements with the support of non-judgemental staff in a safe place to hang out without the fear of loitering or trespassing charges. Youth have a safe place to come where they can build, on their own terms, relationships with our staff. Our staff focus is on establishing trust with youth so that they will see themselves as worthy of care and compassion, building positive relationships with staff that encourage growth and self-confidence.
YESS provides two supportive housing facilities: Graham’s Place and Shanoa’s Place. For youth who need the stability and support of a longer-term placement than our shelter, our two residences provide a homelike environment while youth work on their goals. Youth in our supportive houses are taught to identify realistic and individualized goals that help them move forward in their journeys towards healing and independence. Our purpose is to walk beside the youth in a more stable environment to help facilitate safe and appropriate community integration.
Please note that the YESS name and logo are the sole property of YESS and can only be used with expressed written permission and within brand guidelines. Any usage of our logo should be approved by YESS.
If you require the YESS logo, please contact our Fund Development Team at email@example.com.