DTES information hub survey : Mapping the continuum of income-generating opportunities in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Pilarinos, Andreas
Vancouver Urban Core Community Workers Association (Urban Core) initiated the DTES Information Hub Survey project in order to understand and map the income generation continuum and to inform future strategic planning and advocacy decisions. This research study was undertaken in partnership with the UBC Learning Exchange, and the Local Economic Development Lab (LEDlab), an initiative of Ecotrust Canada and RADIUS SFU. Twenty-seven DTES non-profit organizations and social enterprises were interviewed on their provision of income-generating opportunities. Results are categorized into the types of opportunities provided, recruitment and hiring practices, the benefits to DTES community members, challenges and barriers to income generation in the community, and local procurement practices. Based on these results, this research mapped an income-generation continuum that outlines the trajectory of community members from meeting basic needs to being engaged in the labour force. There are many successes in Vancouver’s DTES of positive community member labour force engagement through the provision of low-threshold income-generating opportunities. Low-threshold income-generating opportunities entail integrating flexibilities into the workplace that minimize the barriers to employment faced by DTES community members. Successful interventions include gradual entry into positions, on-job supports, flexible leave policies, and flexible work hours. Through the provision of low-threshold opportunities, participants reported instances of transition off income assistance and disability benefits, increased stability in housing and other aspects of life, and transition into high-threshold income generating opportunities. Barriers to engaging DTES community members in the labour force include: shortfalls in work readiness supports; government employment policies and funding requirements; lack of collaboration between community organizations, and government; and stigma. Smooth transition through the income-generation continuum requires the provision of holistic supports and services through government and organizational policy innovation to ensure that life necessities are met and that incentives for gradual labour force re-entry exist. As a neutral convener of community groups and organizations, Urban Core is in a position to facilitate dialogue and collective action for the improvement of access to income-generating opportunities and increased engagement in the labour force. Improvements to the well-being of community members and the local economy will only be achieved through community-centred policy innovation that invests in all aspects of the continuum. Through increased collaboration and the reduction of stigma, Urban Core and its community partners can contribute to the development of an inclusive local economy.
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