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DTES economic strategy aims to harness employment opportunities and reduce poverty

December 1 2016

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This week, staff presented to Council on the Downtown Eastside (DTES) Community Economic Development (CED) Strategy, which seeks to improve the lives of low income residents by creating employment pathways through which residents can thrive, and not just survive.

Read the Council report PDF file (4 MB)

Built on several years of partnerships supporting social innovation, social enterprise, and other local economic initiatives in the DTES, the strategy will drive inclusive economic development in the area, with continued community participation. It was co-created by City staff and the Community Economic Development Strategic Action Committee (CEDSAC), which is made up of 35 community groups, businesses, and other local stakeholders.

​The strategy will also seek to strengthen and support nodes of activity (Social Innovation Hubs) like 501 Powell Street, purchased by the City in 2015. The site now provides a permanent space for the DTES Street Market and will provide future social housing.

Staff will seek approval for $353,500 in funding for 13 key initiatives and 22 actions that will lay a foundation for longer-term development and continued expansion of the strategy.

Quick-start projects

  1. Vancity Community Foundation: build capacity with community partners implementing and monitoring the strategy, and assist in developing a range of programs and projects going forward
  2. The Binners Project: design, prototype, and build safe and functional carts for self-employed low-income binners, artists, and other vendors
  3. EcoTrust Canada (Local Economic Development Lab): fund a low-income self-employed needs assessment project to understand the range of income generating activities undertaken by the DTES residents, including home-based businesses, and actions to better support them
  4. Sex Work Exiting and Transition Consortium of Vancouver: fund participant supports to address the survival needs of sex workers who seek options to transition into alternative employment

The City will also undertake a feasibility study to explore the revitalization of industrial lands through:

  • Planned manufacturing and relocalization of manufacturing
  • Assembly for development and construction needs

Pathways from survival work to formal employment

A range of survival work and informal income generation happens by necessity in the DTES. Instead of considering these low-income self-employed individuals to be outside of the “normal” economy, the CED Strategy includes these activities along the Livelihoods Continuum, a continuum of opportunity which creates pathways from survival work to formal employment. This Livelihoods Continuum approach is directly informed by:

  • Input of community organizations involved in the strategy’s co-creation
  • Research by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS which has demonstrated that employment and purposeful activity help stabilize people and sustain recovery from mental health and addictions illness


With so many large institutions, major development projects, and the presence of a diverse and accomplished social enterprise and non-profit sector, the DTES is well positioned to increase things like social procurement and social hiring to help reach the range of goals in the DTES Plan, Healthy City Strategy, and other important City initiatives. The DTES CED Strategy will help us move collectively beyond crisis response to long-term action.