ASK Wellness, NSBIA reducing employment barriers with Clean Team pilot project

“Some of the folks may not have gotten an opportunity for employment prior to this, so this is going to be a very low barrier, easy start into employment,” said Van Dongen.

“We hope that that will help them build their self-esteem and their skills — and it’s also going to be helping the community that they live in. Not just to clean the streets but also a greater sense of safety.”

Jeremy Heighton is the executive director of the NSBIA and helped create the pilot program.

“The long term vision is that this will be collaborative so all of the agencies in town will participate in different areas of the city, and bring some employability skills and some positive opportunities to people who are in [supportive] housing and in care — because it’s a hope component, right?” said Heighton.

“People who are in care need something to hold onto, so if you can get them re-engaged with employment and destigmatization, that’s a huge piece of the problem.”

Heighton said business owners will be able to focus on running their businesses instead of cleaning up the surrounding streets.

“This is about giving some services to the business community. Whether it’s (cleaning up) defecation or graffiti or garbage removal or maintaining planters or cleaning up weeding,” said Heighton.

“There are tasks that we can take off of a business owner who may be short-staffed, who may be really struggling to survive. If we can take these on and employ these folks, it’s a really great win-win.”

Missagh Manshadi is the owner of Manshadi Pharmacy on Tranquille Road. He said this program is a good start.

“I don’t think that we will be able to get rid of all of those problems, but I think it will give a kind of self confidence, self worth to some individuals,” said Manshadi.

The Clean Team participants are excited for the chance for dignified employment.

“Today we had the whole team together. They were very excited, there was a good sense of connection with the team. There was quite a bit of enthusiasm,” said Van Dongen.

“I think a mistake that people often make is that they think that people are underemployed because they don’t want to work, but actually a lot of our folks are really excited about getting back to work and finding some sense of purpose.”

Heighton hopes the provincial government will be able to fund the program in a more permanent way by the beginning of the next fiscal year.

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