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Outreach workers tapping emergency assistance fund

Whistler’s emergency assistance fund is being tapped to help young people who have arrived in town without enough money to survive the "job scrabble".

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"At the end of last week I was hearing about people sleeping in stairwells and tents around Lost Lake," said Greg McDonnell, youth outreach worker with Whistler Community Services Society.

"The emergency assistance fund is not just for housing assistance… some of our clients receive emergency assistance for prescriptions that they’ve got no money to fill, or the phone’s going to be shut down because they haven’t paid the last couple of bills.

"And it’s not just a freebie – we do screen the applicants so not every single person that requires some housing receives that (money)."

McDonnell said there had been no specific studies done on what kinds of people usually require assistance, but he confirmed that he "generally" works with young Canadians who haven’t planned a move to Whistler.

"Generally in order for you to get a visa to come into the country you have your stuff together and you’ve got a hunch on the housing situation and the job situation and you probably have a couple of grand in your back pocket and maybe a return ticket home.

"So what I normally see is Canadians who come to Whistler to just check things out," he said. "You know, they put a thumb out and just sort of arrive here and some have no idea of the housing situation, no idea of the job scrabble and unfortunately don’t have much money."

Contrary to popular opinion, McDonnell added that he was not seeing the shortages in the labour market that is a constant source of aggravation for Whistler businesses.

"I’ve been reading articles on labour shortages… I don’t see that, I see tonnes of people here and so much so that they haven’t even been able to find housing."

McDonnell speculated that landlords might have been startled into action by the lack of activity last season and taken steps, such as organizing tenants over the Internet.

"But in the next two weeks there’s going to be a real shakedown because WCSS is going to be doing its own job fair and then the season will start and businesses are going to need people.

"I’ve heard an estimate that 10 per cent of all those people living in staff housing won’t get their job with Whistler-Blackcomb so we have to catch that 10 per cent in order to find them some employment."

For youth-worker assistance call either McDonnell at 604-938-3902 or Claire Mozes at 604-902-0670.

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