Wednesday, December 01, 2021
At the beginning of this fiscal year, Community Impact Real Estate Society considered how best to maximize the positive change our resources could provide. Our response to the pandemic, and our ability to be agile and creative in our mission to support thriving, equitable and inclusive local economies and communities, has been the true test of CIRES’ commitment to this goal.
As noted in last year’s report, CIRES recognized in early March 2020 that the year ahead would require a different working relationship with its market Subtenants.CIRES quickly pivoted to re-direct its non-market business development support to our for-profit tenants, providing rent abatement and working diligently to assist them in applying for Federal and Provincial support to protect their long-term sustainability. In essence, CIRES inverted its model, deploying the bulk of its resources to ensure that all market Subtenants would weather the COVID-19 storm. As one team member said, “we became social workers to for-profit businesses,” walking with them through an uncertain landscape toward the goal that every business would survive the pandemic. This challenging time afforded CIRES the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with our market tenants, and to further demonstrate the value of being part of the CIRES family. CIRES is pleased to report that in spite of formidable challenges, we have not lost a single tenant.
This past year also afforded CIRES an opportunity to demonstrate leadership within the community. Early meetings convening our social enterprise tenants grew to encompass a wide cross-section of Downtown Eastside stakeholders. The Community Coordinated Response Network (CCRN) was born out of these conversations.
This collaborative, community-led response to COVID-19 challenges quickly established our credibility with the City of Vancouver and other Provincial agencies as an important service delivery partner in the DTES. CIRES’ leadership in the CCRN, along with our administrative capacity, resulted in CIRES acting as an intermediary funding partner for the government. Over the course of the year, CIRES channelled $1,124,415 in wages and other supports to residents with lived experience of poverty. This work included wages for residents who provided COVID-19 supports to the community, directing procurement efforts to a diverse group of social enterprises, and actively liaising with the Municipal and Provincial Governments in support of community partners.
The pandemic gave CIRES an opportunity to explore how it could work with the government in new ways to support the community. CIRES brought its management, financial, and administrative acumen to bear by acting as a trusted funding partner. In addition to funds held in trust by CIRES for peer wages, the organization also administered food contracts on behalf of BC Housing and contracted janitorial services on behalf of the City of Vancouver.
With the maturity of CIRES’ working relationship with BC Housing, the Orange Hall Operations team worked with CIRES to sub-contract local social enterprise catering companies to provide daily meals to residents of privately owned single-occupancy hotels. Likewise, the City of Vancouver leveraged CIRES’ financial and administrative capacity to oversee and manage janitorial support services for washroom trailers dispersed throughout the downtown peninsula. In both cases, CIRES was able to direct procurement efforts towards social enterprises, in support of our mission to further community economic development in Vancouver.
The full impact of COVID-19 on CIRES’ tenants remains to be seen. However, as we enter into a period of recovery, we remain deeply committed to our mission to support equitable and thriving local economies. As Executive Director of CIRES, I am indebted to the staff team for their dedication to our community and to our mission. They have worked diligently through a very uncertain and trying time to ensure that all of our tenants, market and non-market alike, survive the challenges of the global pandemic. I have every confidence that this deep commitment will lead CIRES and the community through the recovery phase and into a more stable, equitable, and prosperous future.