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VANOC to open temporary hostel for 2010 Olympics

VANCOUVER - Transient youth looking for work and play during the 2010 Olympic Games can expect more housing options to meet their needs.

In an effort to relieve potential pressure on homeless shelters and low-income housing, VANOC will be setting up one or more low-cost temporary hostels to accommodate an expected influx of young people seeking employment or low budget travel during the Games.

The hostel, which VANOC has earmarked $250,000 to operate, will work out of an existing facility which has yet to be decided. VANOC has put a bid out to business owners whose facilities might be able to accommodate the 400-bed project.

Guests will be required to show identification to prove they are not from Vancouver, and will be offered basic sleeping and bathroom facilities for a “moderate” price on a night by night basis, according to Donna Wilson, VANOC Executive Vice-President of People and Sustainability.

The hostel will not be advertised widely as accommodation, but rather will be referred to travelers being turned away from hostels and other low-cost accommodation.

“Really its being built as a safety net,” said Wilson.

Past Olympic host cities such as Salt Lake City have experienced a large influx of travelling youth and workers on low budgets, Wilson said, and VANOC wants to “mitigate any impact on existing shelters or low income housing that’s already out there.”

Opening in Novemeber, the hostel will accommodate 100 people at the beginning, and up to 400 people during the peak season of the Games before shutting down in mid-March shortly after the Paralympic Games.

The facility will then go back to its normal use, and any excess equipment bought specifically for the hostel will be donated to the existing shelters in the community.

The project is one way VANOC is attempting to live up to the Inner-City Inclusivity Commitment made during the Olympic bid, to avoid displacing current residents, especially those in shelters and low-income housing.

Krista Thompson, Executive Director at Vancouver’s Covenant House, a crisis shelter for youth, said that the hostel is proof that VANOC is living up to that commitment, and is a practical way to do it.

“This is evidence. They’re putting money behind it. And I am appreciative of that. It makes a lot of sense to me,” she said. “I think they’ve done quite a bit of thinking about this which I’m thrilled about it.”

In addition to the hostel, VANOC contributed $250,000 to Covenant House for additions leading to 32 new beds all of which have been open since April. Since then, Covenant House has not turned away a single youth.

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee

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