‘This isn’t charity, it’s a job’

Cool Aid Society promotes hiring homeless

Cool Aid Society’s casual labour pool has been matching employers and employees in need for almost a decade now.

Cool aid society promotes hiring homeless

To anyone who’s ever thought people experiencing homelessness need to “get a job,” now it’s your chance to make good on the proposal.

While one in four people living in Victoria emergency shelters are actively employed, it’s not a stat that often gets associated with people in the street community, nor is the fact that many more would like to be.

Cool Aid Society’s casual labour pool has been matching employers and employees in need for almost a decade now. Yet while the resources in the city are plentiful, people willing to give employees a chance are currently in short supply, and the society is asking anyone looking for help with a business, home or garden to consider hiring someone from the pool.

“We really try to capitalize on spring time and reno projects to help people see the quality of workmanship and reliability of our clients wanting to be employed,” says Wendy Stone, program coordinator. “We do get some potential employers worried whether or not people will show and, as we tell them, they always do.”

The pool is an accessible, open and cash-based operation. Most of the jobs involve short-term, temporary work, and include everything from helping people move to gardening, trades, house cleaning, office and clerical work. Employees are not required to have extensive experience, documentation, a resume, or be on unemployment assistance — and a lack of identification is often what raises eyebrows. However, all employees do have to apply to the program, are vetted through Stone and must be able to work a minimum of two hours.

“We do a lot of matchmaking, so to speak. I wouldn’t send a client to anyone’s house that I wouldn’t be comfortable having in my own,” says Stone. “And we spend a lot of time following up with all employees and employers to see how the experience went for everyone involved, so there is a real reference system that we build together.”

Stone impresses that many skeptical first-time employers express surprise at the resources and skills available, as well as the eagerness of the employees.

“These are people who do need help, but you also have no idea who you are going to get — this program is open to anyone, housed or not, who needs a hand,” says Stone. “Some of these people are or were craftsmen, landscapers, office clerks and so on who have so much skill and are eager to please.”

The program aims to make the process as easy as possible for employers. Just let Stone know how many people you need, what you need them to do, when you need them to arrive and the rate of pay — at least minimum wage ($10.25), and typically $14 to $15 per hour.

The pool will send the most qualified workers, though employers are expected to supply the tools and other equipment. All payments should be same-day in cash or by cheque when the work is done. As a non-profit, Cool Aid does not take any of the money, and there are no fees for either side to register with the program.

“I have had some people say ‘I only want this kind of employee,’ but that’s not something you get to choose, and we get so many repeat employers who are really surprised by the quality of the employees, and often it is those connections that lead to other work for our clients,” says Stone.

“It’s amazing the barriers people face for employment when they don’t have a home or ID, or a bank account, and more people need to know what a difference this makes to someone’s life — this isn’t charity; it’s a job.” M

Get or give a helping hand by calling Wendy Stone at 250-388-9296. Learn more at CoolAid.org/labour.

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