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From Online Dinners to Stable Housing: How Youth Charities Are Stepping Up
Job loss, housing instability, and social isolation. These have been some of the top challenges that youth organizations like Zero Ceiling have been tackling during this pandemic.
For more than two decades, Zero Ceiling has been supporting youth in the Lower Mainland and the Sea-to-Sky region to end youth homelessness through supportive housing, employment programs, wraparound supports, and outdoor adventure programming.
When the COVID-19 outbreak began, travel restrictions hurt tourism in Whistler, which meant that many of the youth that Zero Ceiling supports were out of jobs and at risk of homelessness. With housing tied to the ability to properly self-isolate, it became an urgent health issue that Zero Ceiling knew they needed to respond to.
Right away, staff moved quickly to help youth continue to have stable housing, access government support, and address essential needs such as food. The community around them have also stepped up by helping them secure groceries and computers.
With the stress, anxiety, and loneliness created by physical distancing and the uncertainty of these times, Zero Ceiling also knew how important it would be to provide mental health support—but in new and creative ways.
They adapted their programming by putting a weekly schedule in place that includes online activities through Zoom such as meditation, yoga, and life skills sessions. Their popular ‘family dinners’ have also been reimagined. A once in-person dinner with staff and youth to visit over a shared meal have moved online where they cook and eat together from their own homes.
“The most amazing thing for me is how positive, resilient, and incredible the youth have been through all this,” said Chris Wrightson, co-executive director of Zero Ceiling. “They’ve taken it in a stride. Part of that is the support they feel here but also the inner resources they’ve been able to tap into as well.”
The grant from the Community Respond Fund will enable Zero Ceiling to develop a program to offer online counselling support and explore ways to expand services to other vulnerable youth in the community. This will ultimately help ensure youth will be able to stay in the community and eventually reenter the labour market.
“We’re committed to ensuring youth come out of this pandemic more resilient than ever,” noted Wrightson. “We talk about the ‘Zero Ceiling family’ and that is one of the guiding principles of our organization – now more than ever.”
Vancouver Foundation is proud to support a diverse group of charities supporting youth through the Community Response Fund. This includes organizations such as Aunt Leah’s Place and Kateslem Youth Society.