Olympic volunteers have to work to find housing 

Social media matching people from around the globe with accommodation in Whistler

For Bill Whittle, volunteering for the 2010 Winter Olympics came down to accommodation.

The 59-year-old White Rock resident decided to sign up to participate in the Olympics late last year because he wanted to watch the Games unfold in the mountains. And two months ago, the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC) offered him a position as a volunteer with alpine skiing and the children's hospital.

Unfortunately, finding a place to sleep in Whistler proved more difficult than Whittle had anticipated. He searched through Craigslist ads and other on-line resources. Over the Christmas holidays, he decided if he didn't find a place in the next few weeks, he was going to cancel his Olympic volunteer plans completely.

"It was tough," said Whittle, who is planning on taking a month break from his full-time job in White Rock to work for free during the Games. "People were charging way too much for their places. I got offers ranging from $5,000 to $12,000 for the month."

Whittle decided to put a housing wanted ad on Craigslist. He got 24 responses, of which 20 were way too high and one was a scam. Luckily for Whittle, though, three of the offers were reasonable and this week he finally secured a place in the village for $60 a night.

Whittle's story is becoming a familiar one for Olympic volunteers from around the world who are scrambling to find accommodation in Whistler.

With less than 30 days to go until the Games begin, volunteers from around Canada and the world are preparing to temporarily move to Whistler. Over the past few weeks, websites like Craiglist and local newspaper classified sections have been peppered with postings from volunteers desperately looking for places to sleep and shower during the Games. The housing seekers range in age from 20 to 60 years old and come from as far away as California, Germany and Dublin.

Almost all the volunteers Pique Newsmagazine talked to this week were able to eventually find accommodation, although everyone said it was difficult to find something affordable, with most offers sitting around $5,000 a month. Some people were told by VANOC that they wouldn't be able to volunteer if they didn't find a place to stay.

Jack Sprecher, a recent university graduate from northern California, was one of those.

He was offered a volunteer position as a press assistant on Monday, Jan. 4 but was told that to keep the position he needed to find accommodation and provide VANOC with a physical address by the end of the week.

To find a place, Sprecher looked at every single ad he could find on Craigslist, scoured Facebook and posted personal ads as well. He said hotel rates were out of the question.

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