A clean neighbourhood is something we all enjoy, it reflects a well cared for community and enhances it’s aesthetic value; it is also a mirror of a district that is vibrant and thriving. Interestingly, studies have also shown that people feel safer in clean surroundings.
By no means is Dunbar is a litter free zone, in fact every day random garbage such as coffee cups and cigarette butts are tossed aside, but there are people working hard to keep unsightly waste to a minimum.
This is the story of two groups that are playing a huge role to make this happen, and we are pleased to shine the spotlight on these Champions of Dunbar Village.
In the summer of 2016 the City of Vancouver launched a mobile street cleaning pilot program. Both Mission Possible (MP) and Coast Mental Health were awarded contracts to provide street cleaning services to Vancouver’s 22 Business Improvement Areas (BIA) on a rotating basis.
In 2017 a total of 38,000 single use coffee cups were picked up in the Vancouver neighourhoods that participate in this street cleaning program.
Mission Possible is a community economic development agency in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. Since 1992 MP has walked alongside people challenged by homelessness and poverty. Through its employment readiness program and social enterprises the organization is transforming lives by helping people experience a renewed sense of dignity and purpose through meaningful work.
Mission Possible currently runs two social enterprises, MP Maintenance and MP Neighbours that employs an average of 50 individuals per year in transitional jobs.
The organization’s relationship with the City of Vancouver began in 2009 when they were contracted to remove graffiti in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Dunbar Village Business Association (DVBA) chooses the dates it would like cleaning to occur and it is based on availability. The MP Clean Team comes to Dunbar twice a month. Five crew members go out with a supervisor. The clean up takes three hours and concentrates on Dunbar Street and nearby alleyways.
David Greaves is the Manager of MP Maintenance. He says, “The MP Clean Team takes pride in delivering mobile cleaning services to the 22 Business Improvement Associations throughout Vancouver. “They see the value in the before and after and the impact they make.”
“The DVBA has been very supportive of the work our team performs. The workers receive compliments and nods of recognition from the wide array of businesses as they clean up along Dunbar and West 41st,” he says.
Natasha Kolida is an Employment Counsellor with Coast Mental Health and she is also the new supervisor of the organization’s mobile street cleaning program.
Like Mission Possible, Coast Mental Health is contracted through an annual grant from the City of Vancouver. The crew is composed of individuals with disabilities and mental health issues; being employed as street cleaners helps transition them for future opportunities.
CMH’s cleaning crew visits Dunbar three times each month. Natasha joins the team of four cleaners. Another component of her job is to work with clients to form educational and career goals.
Natasha says, “People regularly thank the team for their good work. In appreciation, some business owners offer food and gift cards. We hear thank you frequently when we visit Dunbar.”
Both David and Natasha mention their organization’s gratitude to the City of Vancouver for providing this opportunity to people who have been struggling to get on their feet.
A Coast Mental Health team member says, “Street cleaning improves our lives in every way. Not every employer will give us a fair chance, and this job helps us attain and improve our quality of lives. We get to give back to the community now.”
Natasha adds, “I love working with all our street cleaners. I’ve gotten to know them personally so I can help them attain their goals and support them when they’re going through a rough time. They might call me boss, but at the end of the day we’re all in it together providing a wonderful community service.”
This is a win-win story. Dunbar residents and business owners’ benefit from a well kept neighbourhood and the Mission Possible and Coast Mental Health’s teams are given an opportunity to shine and become community ambassadors. Bravo! Your work is appreciated – thank you for keeping Dunbar clean!