Zero ceiling, a Whistler-based charity dedicated to eradicating youth homelessness, enjoyed a banner year in 2018—and now has its sights set on further expansion.
Founded in 1988, Zero Ceiling operates two core programs: Work 2 Live, which provides 12 months of supportive housing in Whistler, employment and one-to-one support to youth aged 19 to 24 to help them build healthy, productive lives; and its Adventure Sessions program, which invites youth aged 16 to 24 from the Sea to Sky and Lower Mainland to learn a mountain sport in Whistler.
Twelve young people took part in the Work 2 Live program last year, while 190 youth learned to snowboard, ski, mountain bike or zipline in the Adventure Sessions day-camp program.
Over the next three years, Zero Ceiling is looking to expand its housing stock and operate and own its own supportive housing, which would enable the Work 2 Live program to grow. The goal is to expand the program to eventually serve 24 young people a year.
Jay, a current Work 2 Live participant, spoke about how the program has changed his life at Zero Ceiling's annual general meeting last Tuesday, April 2.
"I left (the program) for a hiatus for eight months and kind of got lost along the way. Just by reaching out, I was able to come back here," said Jay, who now works at Forged Axe Throwing and at Whistler Blackcomb. "It's pretty amazing to be back in the valley here. I'd call this my home now. I've lived in Vancouver and with all the struggles down there—excuse my language—it was a shit show. So coming up here has really given me a peace of mind."
Jay's case exemplifies Zero Ceiling's commitment to all of the youth it serves—whether active in the Work 2 Live program or not. "(With) so many of the individuals we work with having temporary situations in their life, or they have been in the foster care system ... our door is always open, even for those that don't complete the program or once they graduate," said co-executive director Sean Easton. "They're part of the family."
Easton said Zero Ceiling currently supports 20 youth in all, which includes the current eight Work 2 Live participants.
Anchored by its main annual fundraising event, the Whitewater Rodeo, which returns June 18, Zero Ceiling raised more than $300,000 last year. That money helped the organization build a reserve fund.
"For a non-profit, it's best practice to have three to six months of operating expenses tucked away for unforeseen challenges that occur, and that's really important to us so that programming can continue regardless," noted co-executive director Chris Wrightson.
Last year marked the addition of two new full-time positions at Zero Ceiling: a youth worker and a program and development officer. The non-profit also invested in a new case-management system that will help support program participants towards their goals and will enable the organization to better measure its impact.
To learn more about what Zero Ceiling does, visit zeroceiling.org.