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Whistler's Zero Ceiling poised for growth in 2018

Local charity dedicated to reducing youth homelessness hosts AGM
ADVENTURE TIME Zero Ceiling, the Whistler-based charity aimed at reducing youth homelessness, brought 240 young people up to Whistler last year to participate in one of its Adventure Sessions. Photo submitted

Zero Ceiling, the Whistler-based charity aimed at reducing youth homelessness, has its sights set high for 2018.

Presenting at its Annual General Meeting last Tuesday, March 27, Sean Easton, Zero Ceiling's co-executive director, said the organization is seeking additional accommodation for the participants in its 12-month Work 2 Live program, which provides "employment, housing, professional support and adventure-based learning" for homeless and at-risk youth from the Sea to Sky and beyond. Currently, the program's participants are housed in Whistler Blackcomb staff accommodation.

"We're looking at an independent Zero Ceiling house," Easton explained. Thirteen individuals took part in Work 2 Live in 2017. A total of 1,750 nights of housing were provided over the course of the year.

In the midst of Whistler's ongoing labour shortage, Zero Ceiling has also been considering ways it can work directly with businesses to fill staffing shortages with Work 2 Live participants.

"There's been lots of interest from employers in the community who like what we're doing and are desperate for staff," Easton said.

"We're working towards an employment model where we will be seeking out employers ... to bring in staff."

In order to see its programs grow, however, the charity will have to secure a stable, long-term funding source, explained co-executive director Chris Wrightson.

"Most of our funding comes from grants, events and donations, and generous people in the community," she said.

"We're looking at securing some multi-year funding because that really helps give us stability ... and helps us plan for the future."

Zero Ceiling finished the year with $65,469 in net revenue, and received approximately $230,000 in in-kind support. The organization's budget for 2018 is $272,000.

Since launching in 1997, the organization has welcomed over 4,500 young people into its programs.

One individual among the more than 30 in attendance at last week's AGM was Robert, whose real name Pique has agreed to withhold to protect his privacy. Originally from the Okanagan, Robert was in and out of a Vancouver homeless shelter when he decided to come up to Whistler to take part in one of Zero Ceiling's Adventure Sessions, a program that sees homeless youth participate in a day of outdoor adventure activities, offering a brief respite from their day-to-day challenges. From there, Robert joined Work 2 Live, and is now employed at Whistler Blackcomb in the ticketing and validation department. He said he rode 85 days this season, and is working towards his Level 1 ski instructor certification.

"I got up here and everything's completely changed. I'm actually happy to go to work in the morning, and I get three days off, so that's pretty sweet, too," he said.

"It's all because of Zero Ceiling."

The organization's next fundraising event is the Whitewater Rodeo, a whitewater rafting race followed by an after party on Cougar Mountain. Scheduled for June 20, 100 per cent of ticket sales go directly to Zero Ceiling.

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