Here’s a different way to help the homeless in Kelowna and the Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Here’s a different way to help the homeless in Kelowna and the Okanagan

Brian Snow owns Ultimate Tradesmen, a temp agency that is helping the homeless get housed.
November 25, 2019 - 6:00 AM

While many of the residents living in the tent city on Leon Avenue shivered in the November cold early this morning, Nov. 22, a few of them were already out on a job site.

Ultimate Tradesman, just a block away on Lawrence Avenue, helps connect about 120 workers to employers on a regular basis – with maybe 30 or 40 of them being homeless.

“A lot are from the (Gospel) Mission,” owner Brian Snow told iNFOnews.ca. “I don’t know how many are actually camping on the street, but lots of our guys make a half-decent wage and they’re usually not over there for very long. We try to get them out of there and get them into a place. They usually room with some of the other guys.”

Snow has been running the Kelowna office for a couple of years now. Before that he was in Vernon for two years and still has an office there and in Penticton. He doesn’t have an office in Kamloops because, he said, there’s not enough workers there. Instead, he sometimes sends workers from Vernon or Kelowna to jobs in Kamloops.

Workers have to check in by 6 a.m. to get work and, usually, are on the job sites by 7 or 8 a.m. Most, if they’re on longer term jobs, just head directly to the work site without stopping by the office.

Much of the work is labouring. Most workers don’t have trade certificates but do have a lot of experience. They've just fallen on tough times.

“We get them a job,” Snow said. “We get them a steady income. We get them working weekly instead of daily. What happens then is that they actually start making enough money that they can pay their rent.”

But he won’t send just anybody to a job site.

“We vet our guys very well,” Snow said. “Just because they’re on the street doesn’t mean they’re bad people. We run criminal background checks on everyone walking through the door. We’re not going to put guys with 10 thefts in somebody’s house.”

A criminal record, however, doesn’t prevent someone from getting hired. Snow just has to know the appropriate worksite to send them to.

“We have sort of a three strikes rule,” he said. “We give everybody a good break and they make a half-decent living. If they screw up, we have chats with them and we make sure that they go and better themselves. Eventually, many of them end up with apartments or, at least, the means to get off the street.”

And, after 300 hours of work, they qualify for benefits.

Some employers have been leery of hiring the homeless but, once the workers prove themselves, the employers are not so hesitant to take them on, Snow said.

Ultimate Tradesmen also has operations in Alberta but has been in B.C. for four to five years, offering skilled tradespeople as well as labourers.

Employers are asked to phone in with a detailed description of the type of workers they need a few days before the job starts. Workers are asked to drop into one of their offices for an interview. They're at 201 - 251 Lawrence Ave. in Kelowna, #10 - 2411 Highway 6 in Vernon or 750 Eckhardt Ave. W. in Penticton or check out their web site here.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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