Winnipeg Program Pays Homeless Above Minimum Wage to Clean City Streets

Astonishingly, some people still think unemployment among Canada’s homeless population is a matter of personal choice and not lack of opportunity, a notion that’s being duly disproven by a Winnipeg program called Mission: Off the Streets (MOST).

MOST hires homeless people to clean up the city’s downtown streets for $11/hour, which is 30 cents above Manitoba’s minimum wage. The initiative is open to those staying at Siloam Mission shelter and organizes teams of eight to pick up garbage, shovel snow, and do other street maintenance duties.

Since it was launched, the program has been full every single day. Sometimes demand is so high that those who wish to work every day aren’t able to obtain a spot; often, they choose to volunteer anyway.

“People see their capabilities and believe in themselves again,” said organizer Cathy Ste. Marie. “They’ve still got gas in the engine. They’re still capable, and it’s a catalyst to get back into the workforce.”

References and valuable job experience are among the catalysts that enable Winnipeg’s homeless to transition back into the working society.

“I think it’s very good. If somebody needs work or needs a little bit of money, it helps. It allows them to buy the things you just can’t get at Siloam here,” says Randy Malbranck, who’s been working with the program for six months and saving up to have another chance at renting an apartment. “The next step is to just get a full time job.”

An absolute win all around.