Staff Interview: Tiffany Sorensen

Describe where Supportive Housing fits in YESS’ mission to walk beside youth on their journey towards healing.

The Supportive Housing is a step between shelter and independent living, in which staff teach youth how to prepare for living on their own.  Staff work with youth to learn life skills, while supporting their basic needs.  There can be so much trauma around food for our youth, including potentially hoarding food or demonstrating other behaviours that indicate food insecurities.  As the Program Kitchen Coordinator, I work with staff and youth to make sure they understand food safety, nutrition, and learn basic kitchen life skills to prepare them for their transition.  I teach various food related skills to the youth in programs, in a sustainable and secure way to encourage a sense of felt safety for the youth and this basic need.  I try to empower youth to have a voice and a choice as to what they would like to eat, whether that be when making the weekly menus, or when celebrating their birthdays with a special homemade meal request.  These are all ways of creating healthy relationships and safe spaces for youth in our programs.

In what ways has the COVID-19 crisis affected youth and staff in Supportive Housing?

We have really seen youth and staff in Supportive housing come together during this time to stay as safe as possible. 

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

I wish the community knew that YESS youth are human, currently experiencing hard things and yet they are continuing to grow and thrive.  People tend to take basic needs for granted in their daily lives and forget that food is not always accessible, secure, or sustainable, neither is shelter.  Compassion and kindness can make a huge difference in someone’s life.  When judgements get pushed aside, it can be truly amazing to see connections formed over food or a meal at the table.  

COVID-19 has restricted programming and access to food options for a lot of youth.  Going to the grocery store for essentials is a life skill that our youth were developing, with support, prior to COVID-19.  It creates another barrier and level of trauma to now understand what essential shopping needs are, how to navigate the social expectations of distancing within the stores and how to budget properly during this isolation time.  Tiffany has partnered with the local Edmonton Food Bank to help build and provide hampers of food for the youth who cannot come and access food resources during isolation.  This partnership has helped our youth develop pathways to food resources for the future, but also supported them in the immediate COVID situation to ensure that they have what they need to stay safe, isolated and supported.

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