Program sees vulnerable people in downtown Sudbury paid to help keep area clean

A new program in downtown Sudbury is helping to keep it clean and is giving vulnerable people work.

It started in April with people given an honorarium for shovelling snow. It continued this summer with garbage cleanup.

"By zero barrier we mean there is no judgment, no application process, no formal interview process," said Kyle Marcus, managing director of Downtown Sudbury.

Every morning and afternoon, vulnerable people can sign up to clean up downtown Sudbury.

It's a program that is a partnership between the BIA and the YMCA.

"We know that there is a very large vulnerable community that is downtown and this is giving them a bit of sense of purpose, giving them some much-needed skills that may be able to help them become employed down the road," said Kendra MacIsaac, the vice-president of health and wellness at the YMCA.

From garbage to needles, volunteers are trained how to safely dispose of whatever they find.

"People are smiling at them. People are saying 'hi' to them and I think for a community that tends to be invisible to most, they are being recognized for the work that they are doing downtown," said MacIsaac.

Volunteers are paid a $10 honorarium per hour for cleaning up. The crew leader said it helps vulnerable people with little money attain essential items.

"Things like getting new tents or hygiene products. So if it wasn't for this program, those kind of things wouldn't be I guess easily accessible for some," said Martin Kimewon, the crew coordinator.

Program partners said cleanup efforts are welcomed by downtown businesses.

"There are days I am out with the crew and actually small business owners here downtown come out and offer the workers … ice tea or coffee, so they actually do appreciate the workers," said Kimewon.

Right now, the program is funded through private donations. Downtown Sudbury is actively looking for sponsors and said it's hoping to make the downtown cleanup program permanent.