Wednesday, April 01, 2020
Businesses are adapting to the new environment by hiring staff to help make homes, workplaces and businesses safer and stop the spread of the virus. New jobs include specialized cleaning services in housing, COVID compliance officers in industries such as construction, and greeters to screen people at nursing homes.
In the Downtown Eastside, a company that previously worked in junk removal and pest control has pivoted to disinfect and sanitize some of the neighbourhood's highest-risk buildings, said Dylan Goggs, the founder and CEO of CleanStart.
"We're going into the buildings and around to all the high-traffic areas such as door handles and community areas like shared coffee tables," he said. “We're cleaning the outside of the doors and entrances.”
Goggs estimates that CleanStart has increased cleaning from 11 buildings to 35 in the inner-city neighbourhood. He estimates that they will be adding another 20 workers, which means almost doubling staff. A number of people have also volunteered, including Goggs' 16-year-old son.
It takes a CleanStart crew about four hours to disinfect and sanitize a single-room occupancy residential building of between 80 and 100 units.
It is slow, methodical work, Goggs said, and can't be rushed. "Most people are grateful that we're doing it — not everyone is, but that's the Downtown Eastside for you," he said.
CleanStart is a social enterprise. It competes in the marketplace but hires people who might not otherwise be hired for a job because of poverty or disability. He said CleanStart could have closed down and waited out the pandemic. Instead, managers and staff decided to stay open and“step up and go above and beyond.”
“We feel mostly that we want to do this because we're committed to the Downtown Eastside,” he said. “They're the most vulnerable population in Vancouver, if not Canada.”
Marcia Nozick is the founder and CEO of the temp hiring agency EMBERS who says 95 percent of her firm's work is in construction.
At some construction worksites, companies have created new jobs called COVID-19 compliance officers to ensure workers follow social distancing, and to check that surfaces are properly sanitized.
“The construction sector is still functioning right now, albeit with a whole lot of new protocols,” she said.
EMBERS employs between 300 and 350 people weekly.
She said her firm is also getting unusual requests such as workers to clean a doctor’s office — something which would not have happened before COVID-19.
EMBERS, an acronym for Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal, is a social enterprise working with CleanStart to provide cleaners in the Downtown Eastside.