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2010 Olympics
Housing

'Home for the Games' Project Goes to London

Vancouver website matching Olympics visitors with local hosts will be rebooted by UK homeless advocates.

Deena Tokaryk 16 Aug 2010TheTyee.ca

Deena Tokaryk handled communications for the Home for the Games project in Vancouver.

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Big smile, big cheque: Scott Macdonald of Covenant House.

Home For The Games, the innovative website that raised money for the homeless by finding visitors places to stay during the 2010 Olympic Games, is ready to pass on the proceeds -- and lessons learned.

Already, a group in London is building upon the project's success.

Home For The Games was launched as a non-profit web-based system to match 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games visitors with Metro Vancouver hosts for short-term home stays.

Vancouver visitors who chose this more affordable and socially conscious accommodation experience helped to raise more than $50,000 for charity beneficiaries Streetohome Foundation and Covenant House Vancouver.

Now a new version of Home for the Games is set to launch leading into the next Olympics in London in 2012. There the project will be headed by Centrepoint, the U.K.'s leading youth homelessness organization. 

London calling 

"It was put to me to see if there was an organization that would benefit from our design, code, ideas and experience -- to form an Olympic legacy -- and we couldn't be happier with Centrepoint as that organization," said Tracey Axelsson, project manager in Vancouver.

"We're sharing more than just the technology and text," she said. "We're giving them the opportunity to re-create the great experiences had by our Games visitors and hosts while they help to make change at a fundamental level."

Centrepoint is a highly respected charity operating in London, primarily working with at risk youth from 16 to 24.

"When Nick, Centrepoint's projects manager, received the invitation to review and receive our system, he was so excited he forgot the time difference and got me out of bed," said Axelsson. 

Since then the two organizations have established a format for passing on the technology, business model and the anecdotal information to make it the primary way people will locate affordable and fun accommodations in 2012. Two years after that, the hope is to do the same in Sochi, Russia, site of the next Winter Olympics.

Priceless experiences

Home For The Games was "an entirely new way to find and secure accommodations," said Charles Montgomery, the Vancouver writer who founded the project in his home city. "We wanted to provide visitors with an affordable and memorable Olympic experience and harness the energy of the Olympics to create a community response to ending homelessness.

"Unfortunately the solution isn't just needed in Vancouver," he added, "which is why we're so pleased to see Home For The Games become an Olympic legacy."

One Home For The Games host helped a guest write her wedding vows. Another host opened her basement suite -- and the back deck's jacuzzi -- to a small media team. She even baked them a cake. For both these hosts, the money they made was of little consequence. They were looking for a way to be part of the Olympic experience. "We heard back from lots of hosts and guests thanking us and telling us of their experiences," said Axelsson.

Covenant House's corporate and foundation giving development officer Scott Macdonald said he was honoured to work with Home For The Games and glad to have been chosen as one of the two charities to receive the proceeds.

"This $26,000 donation is one of the largest gifts Covenant House Vancouver will receive this year," said Macdonald. "In fact, with this gift Home For The Games is one of our top 20 donors who together provide 20 per cent of all of our private fundraising.

"On behalf of the 2,000 homeless young people that this gift will touch; we would like to say thank you everyone who took part in Home For The Games for their generous support."

Tyee helped sponsor project

"None of this," said Axelsson, "would have been possible without the generous support of some really incredible volunteers, amazing and kind sponsors like BCAA, Vancity, a couple of anonymous donors and Seven 25 Design. Ryan Ilg did a great job of actually building a workable online system with incredibly tight timelines, Blue Jamb Media provided a wireless advertising campaign, and The Tyee was instrumental helping us reach out to the people of Vancouver."

"It really was a marvel how many people gave and gave to make this project a reality," echoed Montgomery. "It's an example why Vancouver is such a great city."  [Tyee]

Read more: 2010 Olympics, Housing

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