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The City of Vancouver will elevate its annual funding for a program that creates street cleaning jobs for the local homeless population.

A new city staff report indicates the 2020 Street Cleaning Grant Program will total $1.84 million — up from $1.615 million in 2019.

The increased funding will provide an additional 4,100 hours of employment, an additional 6% in the amount of garbage recovered from city streets and laneways, and account for increases in this year’s provincial minimum wage increase.

A total of $775,140 will go towards micro-cleaning programs in problematic areas such as the Downtown Eastside, Chinatown, Kingsway between Victoria Street and Broadway, Broadway between Commercial Drive and Granville Street, and the laneways and some residential areas of downtown.

There will also be $637,210 to support the micro-cleaning efforts of the city’s 22 business improvement associations, $240,150 for priority areas near temporary modular housing sites and where cigarette butts and needles are a growing concern, $90,000 for a public plazas micro-cleaning pilot program, $55,000 for The Binners’ Project, $25,000 for the Transitional Employment Pilot Program, and $17,500 for the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative.

“Micro-cleaning involves daily collection of litter and needles on foot using brooms, shovels and wheeled garbage carts, and is work that is outside the scope of services provided by the City’s forces,” reads the report.

“In addition, the grant program supports initiatives involving the local binning community and assists in developing strategies to address challenges with rat populations.”

Not-for-profit organizations that regularly interact with individuals who are homeless will receive the funding to deliver the street cleaning work, including $398,600 for United We Can, $566,000 for Coast Mental Health Foundation, $681,000 for Mission Possible Compassionate Ministries Society, $73,100 for Family Services of Greater Vancouver, $48,800 for The Kettle Friendship Society, and $55,000 for Tides Canada Initiatives Society.

This annual grant program not only results in cleaner streets and laneways, but it also results in job support and life skills training opportunities for youth and adults with employment barriers.

Funding for the 2020 grant program still requires city council’s approval, which is expected later this month.

According to the city, this grant program has existed for 21 years, and it supplements the work conducted by the city’s maintenance crews.

The 2019 grant funding resulted in the micro-cleaning of an area covering almost seven sq. kms., the collection of 19,000 bags of litter and 111,000 needles, and 65,100 employment hours.

In 2019, the regular public works budgets for street maintenance and street cleaning was $30.5 million and $10.8 million, respectively.

In recent months, there have been growing calls for the city to increase its spending on street cleaning to address growing litter and needles in streets, laneways, parks, and other public spaces.

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