WHAT IS OUR IDEA?
Our idea is a Social Enterprise called the “Green Team”, which will make Calgary a cleaner city while supporting individuals who are transitioning from homelessness into independent living. The “Green Team” will be a mobile, eco-friendly clean up and landscaping unit staffed by 4-5 of our previously homeless clients. Working under our Team Lead, this crew will contract with independent organizations to provide on-site maintenance duties (building site and parking lot clean up, raking, manual powered lawn mowing, snow removal, and other services). This Green Team initiative will become one of the specific projects within our Progressive Supported Employment Program at Calgary Housing & Employment Services (CHES).
After being homeless, sometimes for years, our clients often have access to housing, stabilizing mainstream services and even life & essential skills training; however, proper engagement in the labour market, the final component of community integration, often eludes them. Our Green Team seeks to fill this gap. Instead of simply graduating from a housing first program directly into unsupported employment, our clients will benefit from working for three months with a knowledgeable and supportive employer. Our clients will receive a fair living wage, great work experience, individualized job coaching, and mentorship in a very accommodating work environment, strategically tailored for individuals transitioning out of homelessness.
Another function of this initiative is to collaborate with employers in order to foster allies to our cause. The Green Team will intentionally contract work with employers who have the capacity to hire our clients once their employment has been completed with us. With the opportunity to show potential employers, and the community in general, how beneficial working with our clients can be, the Green Team becomes our quintessential flagship and ambassador of good will for our cause while making Calgary a more vibrant and inclusive city.
WHO WILL IT BENEFIT?
The Green Team will provide significant benefits to three groups:
- Our Homeless Clients
- Companies that the enterprise serves
- The City of Calgary
The Green Team provides a direct benefit to our previously homeless clients, particularly through their participation in a supportive work environment. Our clients are given an opportunity to obtain 3 months of work experience while learning valuable life and essential skills.
With the supports we provide, both on the job and through our other agency services, our clients will be able to gain confidence towards full engagement in the labour market.
Our company partners also directly benefit, as they are able to get eco-friendly, cost effective services aimed at keeping their premises tidy, clean, and safe. This includes spatial clean up services, lawn, gardening, and maintenance services in the summer and snow-shoveling, de-icing, and cleaning services in the winter.
However, we believe another major beneficiary of this enterprise will be the broader community. The Green Team’s larger goal is to change the face of homelessness. By engaging our clients with work throughout Calgary, we are working together to break down stereotypes and marginalization. Often, the stigma associated with homelessness is a major barrier for individuals attempting to make positive changes in their lives – this often presents itself as the ‘not in my backyard’ attitude.
The Green Team provides a highly visible reminder that with proper support and accommodation, some of the most vulnerable people can become strong members of our communities. In addition, as a Social Enterprise, all revenue generated by the Green Team will go back into the program. This will ensure more individuals are able to take advantage of this opportunity to get back into the workforce.