Published online at Edmonton.Ctvnews.ca on Jan. 14, 2013.
Linda Hoang, CTV Edmonton: January 14, 2013
Frustration, uncertainty, after YESS announces layoffs, service cuts
A non-profit organization that helps at-risk youth in Edmonton has announced service cuts and staff layoffs, leaving young people in the city who access the organization’s programs, feeling frustrated and uncertain.
Youth Empowerment & Support Services announced Monday it is laying off 10 of its staff and reducing hours of service for its Armoury Youth Centre, due to a funding shortfall.
“I’m really thinking that we let these kids down,” said Deb Cautley, executive director for YESS.
“I think that we do our best but this is the first time our best hasn’t been good enough.”
Cautley says the organization had no choice but to make the layoffs and cutbacks but it breaks her heart to do so.
“When I had to look at those kids faces and tell them that we were closing the door on them, it rips your heart out,” Cautley said.
“We just had a little girl show up at the door this morning. We’ve never seen her before. She came from the north end. She had no where else to go. She knew she could get help here. If she comes here in February, this scared child is going to come to a door that’s closed to her.”
Some troubled youth tell CTV News that YESS has become a home for them, and news of the layoffs and cutbacks had those who access the centres’ programs frustrated and feeling uncertain.
“I used to be really hardcore into drugs until I started coming here,” said Anthony Shapka-Rolfe, who uses YESS’ services.
“I slowly started coming off of the drugs because I didn’t want to do it anymore. I found something better to do with my life.”
Devon Shivak says the organization provided a welcoming atmosphere for young Edmontonians.
“Everybody accepts everybody. No one judges people by the way they look,” Shivak said. “We get to know each other here, it’s great.”
Both say if it weren’t for YESS, their lives would be very different.
“If I wasn’t here I’d be outside drinking or something,” Shapka-Rolfe said.
“I dropped out of school and going into school is a priority now,” Shivak said. “This is the place I like to be. This is my home.”
YESS says the majority of its budget is raised through fundraisers.
About 28 per cent of the organization’s operating budget is assured funding, the rest has to be raised through donations and fundraisers.
Recent low fundraising numbers has forced the organization to make cut backs, as a last resort.
Cautley says YESS fell short about $500,000 of its $1-million fundraising goal.
On Monday, Mayor Stephen Mandel said he planned on speaking with councillors and the province to figure out a way to help the organization.
“We need to help them out. We need to find a way to help,” Mandel said.
“These things are too important. We cannot allow our younger generation to be shuffled off because we don’t seem to have money to deal with their challenges.”
YESS will begin reducing hours at the centre in February.
With files from Serena Mah