Everything we do here at Zero Ceiling is shaped by our dedicated, generous partners in our community and beyond. Whether we’re working together to mentor young people, delivering unforgettable outdoor adventures, or providing vital support services, our partners are crucial to our success. So this year, we will be shining a spotlight on a few of the many wonderful organizations that we work with.

At the start of the year, we profiled Whistler Blackcomb in our first epic partner profile. For our second, we are throwing it over to Covenant House Vancouver, our comrades in the fight to end youth homelessness. From very early on, they have been our brothers in arms as we both developed local programs aimed at eliminating youth homelessness.

As our relationship with Covenant House has deepened, and as we have grown as an organization, they have become one of our top referring partners to our Work 2 Live program. And in turn, we offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences through our Adventure Sessions to young people from their programs.

Who Are Covenant House Vancouver?

Covenant House Vancouver offers a safe place for youth experiencing homelessness in the city. They offer peace and support in what can be a traumatic time. Last year, 1,228 young people accessed love and support through the various programs at Covenant House. These programs include a drop-in centre, an outreach program, a residential crisis program, and a supportive employment and housing program called Rights of Passage.

“Covenant House Vancouver provides love and hope to homeless youth in Vancouver. We make this possible through a carefully planned Continuum of Care including a daily drop-in, a 59-bed residential Crisis Program, a transitional living program, drug and mental health supports and life skills training.” – Cory Kaban, Development Associate at Covenant House Vancouver.

Zero Ceiling and Covenant House: A long history

12 young people sit on mountain bikes with a tree-lined mountain slope behind them.

A group from Covenant House gets ready to ride mountain bikes for the first time.

Both Covenant House Vancouver and Zero Ceiling opened our doors and our hearts to young people at risk of homelessness in 1997. Both of us are deeply rooted in our respective communities. Both of us offer innovative services designed to end youth homelessness. Both of us have grown from a mission to offer young people individualized care and support and have adjusted our programming to address the needs they face.

In the past 22 years, as the issues and awareness surrounding the Canadian youth homelessness crisis have grown, so has our partnership.

Inspiring Adventure: Covenant House and Our Adventure Sessions

Each year, 375 young people aged 16-24 who are experiencing homelessness get to take part in one of our Adventure Sessions. These day-long sessions are a chance to connect participants with the great outdoors and try out snowboarding, mountain biking, ziplining, or a tree-top course with one of our other epic partners.

3 pairs of legs stand on a wooden floor with rope-course equipment at their feet as they prepare to put on their gear and do a tree-top adventure course.

80 young people from Covenant House have learned to play in the trees and snow through our Adventure Sessions in the past 18 months.

In just the last 18 months, over 80 of those participants have joined us through Covenant House Vancouver. That is the most out of every organization we currently partner with. Those are 80 individuals who have a chance to take a break from the day-to-day of life on the streets of Vancouver and enjoy the mountains, trees, trails, and snow in Whistler. 80 people who get to leave feeling empowered, confident, and inspired. 80 people who have gained new life skills, such as teamwork, boundaries, and communication that they can take on to their next challenge. And 80 people who get to just have fun, be young, and play in nature.

The people who come to our Adventure Sessions get to remove themselves from some of their daily struggles, take a breath and get some perspective. As one Covenant House participant said: “sometimes the pain of every day outweighs who you think you could be. It is hard to understand our progression if we aren’t looking at it from a bird’s eye view. Being given the opportunity to zipline created that effect of soaring above the trees and rivers. Above our adversity and struggle down below.”

Many of the individuals who access Covenant House’s services struggle with problems relating to mental health. Engaging in nature through one of our Adventure Sessions can offer them hope and inspiration to keep going.

“Depression, suicide, hopelessness, shame. Words that resonate with everyone at different times. Sometimes the fog is so thick, it feels like no one understands how hard it is to see. It feels like you’re in too deep, like you’re in over your head. […] Flying through the fog reminded us not to forget that the fog will eventually lift, when we realize that we are in control of how we see and feel like. Your opportunity improved us, and we can take that with us today and be inspired to help others in the same way. Progression is always possible, within reach. The treetops taught us once you really understand your greatness from above, the pits of depression are only so deep. To see the beautiful view at the top, you must climb from the bottom up.” — Adventure Sessions Participant from Covenant House Vancouver

The young people who have come to one of our Adventure Sessions from Covenant House get to experience a day in our mountains, which most of us in Vancouver and the Sea-to-Sky corridor take for granted. And some of them find a connection to nature that inspires greater change. Thanks to our epic partner, Covenant House, lives are transformed. Read more about the impact the Adventure Sessions have had on their blog.

From Covenant House to Work 2 Live

When it comes time for someone to consider life beyond Covenant House Vancouver, many are unsure of their next steps. It can be a vulnerable time for them transitioning out of one form of support to either independent living or into another supportive environment, and sadly there is always the possibility of returning to life on the streets.

three people in winter clothing are in the snow. One person on skis passes by a snowboarder who has fallen to his knees.

Our Work 2 Live program gives youths experiencing homelessness a chance to transform their lives through the outdoors.

That’s where Zero Ceiling can come in. We accept referrals from organizations such as Covenant House for our 12-month Work 2 Live (W2L) program. We have been referral partners with Covenant House for more than a decade. In that time, more than half of our W2L participants have come to the program through referrals from Covenant House. That’s a lot of lives changed thanks to the work they do, and the help they provide to transition these young people from life on the streets.

The W2L crew receive full-time employment, supportive housing, passes to Whistler Blackcomb, equipment rentals, one-on-one support services, and a chance to become a part of a new community and get to know themselves through nature and adventure.

Both Zero Ceiling and Covenant House recognize that ending youth homelessness requires individualized, comprehensive support. 681 youth experienced homelessness last year in Vancouver, with numbers that will only grow as we face increased costs of living, inadequate housing, and cuts to funding and social services. Supportive housing programs like Covenant House’s Rights of Passage and Zero Ceiling’s W2L are tried, tested, and true methods of tackling youth homelessness. Thanks to the work that Covenant House does, we can continue to change lives.

Thank You, Covenant House!

Covenant House Vancouver and Zero Ceiling have formed a truly epic partnership. We have grown together over the past two decades, and that growth has spurred greater opportunities to change minds and lives. We couldn’t do it without the support of organizations like Covenant House, their incredible staff and volunteers, and the inspiring young people we get to meet through their work. Cheers to our next great adventure!