Employment program for Winnipeg homeless a hit

Homeless man holding sign.
Stock photo from iStock/Getty Images.

Many cities are grappling with what to do about the homeless. Well, one mission in Winnipeg, M.B. had an ingenious idea.

The Siloam Mission has been making headlines recently with their innovative temporary employment program that sees homeless people employed to clean up the streets of Winnipeg. The mission started the program, called Mission: Off The Streets (MOST) in September 2006.

The program pays homeless employees $11 per hour, which is the current official minimum wage in Manitoba as of October 1, 2015, and seems to be a hit in Winnipeg. The way it works is that people who seek shelter at the mission have the opportunity to be part of the group that goes out and cleans the streets every day.

It’s basically a street maintenance job, which seems them shovel snow, collecting garbage and debris, sweeping streets and more.

This program was the brain child of Siloam Mission and Downtown Winnipeg Biz to help the homeless develop skills to help them find more permanent employment.

While the program is certainly commendable and seems to do a lot of good, how is it that the mission can actually employ the homeless? After all, they are paying them a salary, and once a salary is being paid then some kind of employment is said to exist.

So what work rules does the mission have to follow since it is legally employing people and paying them the minimum standard wage?

It seems that MOST can be considered a temporary work agency. The Employment Standards Act of Manitoba explains that temporary work agencies are organizations that assigned temporary workers directly to their client’s worksite for temporary work.

There is no set date for how long the temporary employee must work for the agency. The date ranges anywhere from a few days to months. However, the temporary agency has quite a few obligations as it’s held accountable as the employer and must be sure the wages people receive are paid legally.

Temporary agencies are subject to the The Worker Recruitment and Protection Act. The act requires that the organizations acting as temporary agencies have a license.

Furthermore Siloam Mission would be required to have proper employment records and keep:

  • Complete and accurate financial records of its operations in Manitoba, and maintain them for at least three years;
  • The dates the temporary help employee was assigned to work and for which client;
  • A record of the agreement between the agency and the client relating to the temporary help employee.

Indeed, temporary employees are entitled to notice of termination from their employer. For example, if the employee worked over thirty days but less than one year, the employee has the right to one week’s notice. The exception to that rule is if the employee has substantial control over their whether they work or not, are not penalized for not accepting work and work less than 12 hours per day.

Lastly, temporary employees, like most employees who are non-unionized, are also fall under the Employments Standards Code and therefore have all the rights listed under the code.

So it seems that though MOST is a temporary employment program, the mission still has the same obligations to their temporary employees as all other employees.

The program seems to be quite successful. They’ve employed 86 people in the program just last year and some have gone on to find permanent employment. The quality of work that MOST employees deliver has been praised by local businesses and now that the program is gaining more national attention, hopefully it will catch on in other Canadian cities.

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