A multi-part series produced by Central City Foundation, “Change Can Happen” explores community-led programs, initiatives and ideas from our inner city that are helping to build a resilient, caring and inclusive community where it is possible for all people to overcome injustice, participate and thrive.
“I think from the larger community there’s still a lot of stereotypes that people have about the Downtown Eastside community,” says Matthew Smedley, Executive Director & Chief Empowerment Officer at Mission Possible. “Everything from people are lazy who are experiencing poverty to really it’s their own fault to kind of this blaming of people. Thinking it’s all about choices or series of choices that people made. It’s really inaccurate and not true within this community.”
For over a hundred years, Central City has been working to build a resilient, caring and inclusive community where it is possible for all people to overcome injustice, participate and thrive.
“We believe that we can create a community together where everyone can participate, where we are all free to choose our own paths,” says Jennifer Johnstone, President and CEO of Central City Foundation. “We invest in solutions with our community partners where the people who are most directly affected by the challenging conditions in our inner city are making choices about the programs and services that will help them the most on their journey through life.”
“Employment is such an important opportunity for people,” Smedley says. “Work is one of those things that gives us a sense of purpose and really has lots of benefits beyond just the income people earn. There is that sense of connection, there’s a sense of the ability to be a contributor. Employment gives a really good opportunity for relational connection. And increased income opens the doors for people to move into better housing. To eat better food. To take care of themselves better. To care for others, as well.”
Community-led employment opportunities emerge from organizations, such as the Binners’ Project, that are deeply connected with the community. “Binners’ Project was created with the Binners at the forefront of the decision-making,” says Brianne De Man, Manager, Charitable Programs at Binners’ Project. “And they still inform every decision we make at a program level with regard to the types of things that are impacting them. So if we’re making changes to the programs we’re doing, we need their feedback because it’s so important to get that insight, to make sure we’re actually meeting their needs.”
Another great example of community-led job creation is Potluck Café Society. “Potluck gives people an employment opportunity and a training opportunity,” says Naved Noorani, Executive Director. “What we find is economic agency is critical at someone improving their lives and being better at who they are and what they are. It also gives them the self-confidence to transcend whatever barrier it is they are facing.”
Noorani credits support from Central City Foundation for helping community-led organizations and social enterprises like Potluck create employment opportunities in the inner city. Central City Foundation has been extremely valuable to Potluck,” Noorani says. “Not only from a funding standpoint, but also by sharing their expertise, sharing their knowledge, helping us resolve issues, and guiding us along the way.”
Central City Foundation has also provided important support other community-led organizations that offer employment opportunities such as Binners’ Project and Mission Possible. “Support from Central City Foundation has allowed us to purchase equipment,” says Matthew Smedley, “This translates into jobs for people. It translates into skills that people are learning. They are just an amazing partner and their commitment to the community really stands out.”
“Ultimately, it’s all about our belief in people,” Smedley says, “Believing that people have capabilities. Believing that they have gifts. Believing that they have skills and strengths. So we can help them recognize their own value and their own abilities to move forward.”
Central City Foundation donors, too, believe change can happen. Our donors are investing in these community-led solutions and in our efforts to build a resilient, caring and inclusive community where it is possible for all people to overcome injustice, participate and thrive.
Watch the full video below or at this link!