The EMBERS Eastside Works space may look a bit different than a couple months ago, but the staff have made strides to continuously provide an inclusive environment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Physical distancing, sanitation procedures, and mask wearing have been implemented, giving staff and community members of the Downtown Eastside a safe space to fully restart in-person programs.

Over the course of the past couple months, the Eastside Works space has been busy with initiatives such as:

  • Tech Cafe
  • Jobs 4 Us
  • Call to Empower
  • Chinatown Stewardship Project
  • Perch Stewardship
  • Peer Demonstration Project
  • Low-Barrier Employment Provincial Network

Tech Cafe: In partnership with Downtown Eastside Literacy Roundtable, Eastside Works has re-opened the Tech Cafe program. A peer will be at the Eastside Works space every Wednesday from 1:30-3:30 to give people support and guidance around digital access/literacy. To provide enough room for physical distancing, they are taking 1-on-1 appointments only. If anyone is interested in this service, call the office to book an appointment at 604-620-4587.

Call to Empower: “ Employ to Empower (ETE), an organization that offers Downtown Eastside residents access to development and entrepreneurial resources, is piloting a service in which they have hired Downtown Eastside peers to make regular phone calls to socially isolated residents. #CallToEmpower, in collaboration with EMBERS Eastside Works hub, lends residents a friendly ear, listening to their struggles and informing them about local COVID-19 resources such as food, shelter, and showers.”

Chinatown Stewardship Project: This employment program through EMBERS Eastside Works hires Downtown Eastside community members to act as stewards for the Chinatown Community. This includes being a liaison with businesses, needle/litter pick up, and de-escalation. Interested in hearing more about this program? Check out this article by Richard Young in Megaphone Magazine

Perch Stewardship: Located at Cathedral Square Park in Downtown Vancouver, the Perch Stewardship Program is a collaboration between the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA), Vancouver Parks Board, Hives for Humanity, and Embers Eastside Works. Perch Stewards help maintain the cleanliness at Cathedral Square Park and set up furniture so anyone can enjoy the buskers who perform in the afternoon. This is a summer program that ends in September, so don’t hesitate to stop by the park on your lunch break.

Peer Demonstration Project: The Provincial Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training has recently issued through the Canada-BC Workforce Development Agreement has recently issued $200,000 to fund peer work in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. The peer demonstration project will follow five Downtown Eastside organizations over a six month period, employing approximately forty people as peer workers. These peers will undertake neighbourhood jobs that have emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic as well as other duties that arise as a response to the communities needs. This includes the sharing of information and other health resources, operating water stations and washrooms, overseeing respite centres, distributing food, and community outreach to drug users, among other essential services.

Low-Barrier Employment Provincial Network: At Eastside Works we are committed to the power of collaboration and in that spirit we have created a Provincial Network of members that are creating alternative, innovative models to get people working and who can see their services as complementary to those of WorkBC often filling the gaps for individuals with barriers to employment. We also have government interest in creating this as the Program Policy and Development Department of the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction – basically the department that oversees WorkBC – is interested in the formation of this group, hearing from us and possibly offering some support.  We see this group as partly an advocacy network and also a place to share best practices and experiences.   We launched our first meeting on July 29 with 16 groups participating and hope to grow this even further.  If you are interested in being part of this Network or learning more please email


New Ventures: Mark + the “Crap Trapper” 

Mark Defreitas is currently a supervisor for the Chinatown Stewardship Program and has successfully launched his first business through Eastside Works and Employ to Empower. After running the program for a few months, and talking to many businesses, he noticed feces was one issue that had no solution. No services dealt with human waste, including the City of Vancouver, leading businesses to deal with it themselves. We started counting how many feces the stewards saw during their shift, as a way to advocate to the City how bad the situation is.

Mark, the entrepreneur that he is, thought it would be a good business to start and EMBERS referred Mark to Employ To Empower to get entrepreneurial support. Since then, Employ to Empower has provided business training, mentorship, funding, and support to help incubate Mark’s business idea.

Last month, Mark officially signed his first contract with the Strathcona BIA, in partnership with the City of Vancouver, where he is providing general monitoring and pick-up services to the Strathcona BIA catchment.