Street Cleaning Grant Program

A Clean Street micro-cleaning team at work in the Downtown East Side.

City Council has approved annual Street Cleaning Grants since 1999 to non-profit agencies that have the capacity to provide micro-cleaning services and supplement our street cleaning services.

Micro-cleaning involves daily collection of litter on foot using brooms, shovels, and wheeled garbage carts – work that's outside the scope of City services.

Micro-cleaning grants also complement other street cleaning services, such as programs coordinated by business improvement associations.

Attributes of the program

The Street Cleaning Grant Program connects the following Council priorities and City strategies:

  1. Low threshold employment supports an inclusive city and helps marginalized individuals to become more self-reliant, contributing to the goal of ending homelessness.
  2. Cleaner streets promote a safe and welcoming public realm, show a commitment to protecting the environment, and help to convey "Greenest City".

2016 grant funding resulted in the following:

  • 400 City blocks and 22 BIAs cleaned
  • 35,000 work hours to individuals with barriers to traditional employment
  • 12,200 bags of litter collected
  • 63,000 needles collected from streets and lanes
  • 16,000 single-use items (plastic bags, coffee cups, Styrofoam containers) collected from 22 BIAs
  • 20,000 coffee cups collected and recycled as part of a pilot with The Binners' Project

Employment opportunities

In addition to achieving cleaner streets, the Street Cleaning Grants support low threshold employment and life skills training for local community residents with barriers to traditional employment. Program participants provide micro-cleaning of City lanes and streets throughout the Downtown Eastside, Commercial Drive, Strathcona, West End, Kensington-Cedar Cottage, and Broadway.

Social sustainability

Individual or human capacity is a crucial factor of social sustainability. Capacity means the attributes and resources that people can contribute to their own well-being and to the well-being of the community as a whole.

The Street Cleaning Grant Program is an excellent example of social sustainability in action. Work crews benefit from a greater sense of pride and self esteem developed through employment that makes a positive contribution to their own community.

Comments from workers

In talking with cleaners, some comments are universal. Virtually everyone will tell you that they are regularly praised and thanked for the work they do.

Here are some other comments from the program participants:

  • "It helps me with my self confidence, and my self pride for myself and the Strathcona Community”
  • “This job gives me confidence that I work”
  • “Working is great, I feel equal to everybody else”
  •  “I am really proud that I have this job”
  • “Just the knowing I pleased people, did a good job and made extra money to help my family”
  • “Bursting with pride when dealing with tourists”
  • “Talking to people and knowing I am making a difference”
  • “I don’t isolate myself”
  • “After cleaning streets it is good feeling when you did all you could to make streets clean & beautiful”
  • “Walking into a big pile of a nasty mess, then having the before and after; and people of all walks of life thanking me”
  • “I am physically active and part of something special”
  • “Has made life better for me; feel part of something useful”
  • “I hope to become more active in my community volunteering, sharing knowledge and ideas”
  • “I feel that I will be better qualified to handle other pursuits, such as education goals and career based interests”
  • “It will help me financially for starting a martial arts program to get in better shape”
  • “This job gives me hope that some day I could possibly get a more responsible job”
  • “I’m hoping to go back to work full time eventually and will use my background as a record of employment”
  • “I don’t have to go to food banks or food line-ups to eat; I can buy groceries every week”
  • “The extra income feeds me a healthy diet”