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Whistler’s social workers to start pooling time and resources

Outreach workers dealing with apparent job shortage

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There are many steps Whistler’s social workers take to ensure the people that arrive at this time of year have somewhere to stay and food to eat, but there is an initiative being developed that should help improve and co-ordinate more holistic solutions to developing social concerns.

Kiran Pal, the Late and Unique Nighttime Activities, or LUNA, co-ordinator for Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS), has been developing the concept of a youth-team comprised of all the youth workers in Whistler. The "Y-team" concept will allow youth workers in Whistler to meet regularly to grow their network and discuss co-operative events.

Pal said the Y-team was also looking at pooling some marketing resources and beginning an online youth calendar.

"I realized at my first meeting with all the youth workers (the Y-team) that there would be great benefits to pooling our resources and helping each other to promote our programs," said Pal.

Some of the youth workers in Whistler include: Caroline Stroud and Sue Oliver with the municipality, Lisa Trombley, Mike Redmond and Graeme Leathem from Whistler-Blackcomb, while Janet McDonald, Greg McDonnell, Claire Mozes and Pal work for WCSS.

Leathem said the Y-team concept would help co-ordinate a variety of youth programs around Whistler.

"It will also help increase awareness of the existing activities and events put on by various stakeholders," said Leathem. "I’m really stoked that this team is moving forward and at the opportunity to work with the various individuals in Whistler with the same goals.

"In the past everyone has been working out of their own separate silos towards the same goal, without a lot of collaboration or co-operation. This will enable us to really develop a calendar of events with a lesser degree of conflict that will provide a better array of options for things to do once the mountain closes.

"A specific example would be the youth facility 18 Below at Base Two on Blackcomb," he said. "This facility is undergoing a $150,000 renovation to create an atmosphere more appealing to today's youth."

McDonnell, from WCSS, agreed the Y-team was a great project but he and Mozes have also had a raft of other issues to deal with during the past month. They are outreach workers and the town has been flooded with new people. Through WCSS, McDonnell and Mozes have been using Whistler’s emergency assistance fund to help many young people that have arrived without enough money to survive the wait for jobs.

Contrary to popular opinion, McDonnell said he was not seeing the shortages in the labour market that seem to be 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," he said.

McDonnell speculated that landlords might have been startled into action by the lack of activity last season and taken steps to do things such as organize 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 (Whistler-Blackcomb) staff housing won’t get their job with W-B so we have to catch that 10 per cent in order to find them some employment."

Members of the Y-team will be running many separate events this season for people of all ages, but one that is particularly relevant at this time of year is the LUNA program.

LUNA events run weekly during the winter season, cost $2 to attend and are a great alternative to the bar scene. In additions to all the activities, LUNA will also be running a 10-month volunteer training program this year.

"Volunteers help out at events during their 10-month session and graduate by organizing and running their own event, after which they receive a Community Event Co-ordination certificate endorsed by WCSS and the RCMP," said Pal.

For more information about LUNA events look up www.lunawhistler.com, e-mail Pal at luna@mywcss.org, or call the LUNA Hotline: 604-902-0769.

Whistler Community Services can be reached at 604-932-0113 or for youth-worker assistance, call either McDonnell at 604-938-3902 or Mozes at 604-902-0670.

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