Lane clearing, also known as needle sweeping, is an additional service provided by United We Can which employs individuals exclusively from the Downtown Eastside who have multiple barriers in attaining traditional employment.
The Lane Clearing program works with the City of Vancouver, various Business Improvement Associations and movie production companies to provide street and lane-way micro-cleaning. Teams of workers are dispatched daily to walk the streets and lane-ways in the identified neighborhoods to collect garbage, syringes and other refuse.
Daily micro-cleaning service is currently provided to over 70 city blocks in targetted areas such as Strathcona, Downtown Eastside, Chinatown and Gastown. The health and safety of these communities are improved through the removal of roughly 380 bags of garbage weekly. This results in a reduction of rodent and fire hazards on local sidewalks, alleyways and hundreds of local green spaces. Public safety is improved through the collection of over 80,000 syringes per year from alleyways. The program also reports any illegal dumping activities and the presence of fluorescent vests on employees discourages local criminal activity in the community.
All of the 60+ people employed in the program have lived or continue to live in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and are largely DB2 disability identified. Through the 8000+ worker shifts per year, employees of this program have their income supplemented and benefit from regular employment, working on a team and and an increased sense of self-worth from participating in meaningful work. Residents of the Downtown Eastside neighborhood or homeless individuals receive work training and income to stabilize life conditions as a bridge to other forms of employment.
There is a long waiting list of potential employees and a significant demand in the community for the service to continue. The local Business Improvement Associations contribute to program revenues which signals the importance for local businesses that the program continues.
United We Can continues this program utilizing grant and company contribution revenues to cover the costs of wages and for the lane cleaning operation and supplies. The program does not contribute to United We Can’s overhead costs.