How this Kelowna agency helps people with 'diverse abilities' find meaningful employment - InfoNews

Current Conditions

Mainly Sunny

How this Kelowna agency helps people with 'diverse abilities' find meaningful employment

Hugh Harris has been employed by Bikeways for 15 years to refurbish lost and stolen bikes recovered by the RCMP.
June 03, 2020 - 7:00 AM
Hugh Harris got involved with Pathways after graduating from high school in 2000 and moved on to its bike recovery program, called Bikeways, five years later.
He is one of about 45 people they employ with “diverse abilities” a term that term includes a wide range of adults who may have Down’s Syndrome, be on the Autism spectrum or have other cognitive challenges.

“There were opportunities here with people with diverse abilities,” Harris said as he restrung brake cables on a mountain bike. “I have a slight bit of that.”

He works three days a week on a set schedule that allows Pathways to give him assistance when needed but, today, June 2, he was pretty much on his own doing what was needed to refurbish the bike.

“It gives me something to do,” he said. “It gets income as well for my loved one and me. I met her through Pathways.”

Harris is employed by Pathways as part of what is called their Social Enterprise Ventures. Others work with him or on recycling programs at places like UBCO or Okanagan College or at Columbia Bottle Depots where unsorted empties can be dropped off as donations. All are paid.

It’s a program that employment manager Bonnie Fraser said is unusual in the field.

“We run ours on Canada labour laws,” she said. “Anyone that is working at any of our social venture programs are paid minimum wage or higher. They are employees. They have a hiring package, they have orientations, they have job descriptions, they have to sign off on conflict of interest and all that stuff."

There are other agencies that run these programs as "training programs" and that means they generally work for free.

Hugh may get an $1,100 per month disability pension but that doesn’t go far in a high rental city like Kelowna. The income from working gives him a better quality of life as well as fulfillment.

“Pathways is an amazing agency,” Fraser said.

“I came from Victoria. There was no such thing as social enterprise on the Island. When I came here, it was like wow! If I was 20 years younger, I would be going back to the Island and I would be making sure that social enterprise became a thing because it provides employment for so many people. It sets people up for a win-win situation.

“Everyone is equal. Anyone who is doing a job, working whatever hours – two hours, 10 hours, 20 hours, I don’t care. They deserve to be paid minimum wage or more for their hours.”

Fraser also runs what’s called the Customized Employment Division of Pathways.

She doesn’t know how many people are employed there because many have been around for years and are paid by local businesses, such as Home Depot.

Pathways takes potential employees through a number of tryouts with different employers to find the best fit then work with them to help them learn the ropes. When changes happen, Pathways is there to help.

This was the case with a woman hired by Home Depot who was laid off due to COVID-19. When she went back to work, Pathways was there to make sure she fully understood rules about things like safe-distancing.

Bikeways has been operating for more than 20 years and is contracted to the City of Kelowna for about $13,000 a year to manage its stolen bike program.

There’s been a dramatic increase in lost and stolen bikes recovered from the RCMP. There were 414 of those in the last year (up to May 1), almost double the previous year’s total of 209.

READ MORE: Crime is down dramatically in Kelowna due to COVID-19

They also get bikes brought in by bylaws officers, through donations at the Glenmore Landfill or pick ones up out in the community.

The bikes have to be kept for 90 days before they’re refurbished and offered for sale or stripped of parts for resale. Often, only one or two bikes will be claimed in any 90 day period.

Harris’ work only begins after the 90 days is up.

That there is a huge problem with stolen bikes in Kelowna is illustrated by the fact that, since the COVID-19 lockdown, thefts from Bikeways, located on St. Paul Street, have skyrocketed.

In one two week period, it lost $8,000 worth of bikes. Thieves twice hammered through its steel back doors and Fraser chased one man down the street after he cut through a cable securing newly arrived bikes while the workers were on their lunch break. He dropped the bike.

There is frequently evidence of other attempts to break into the building.

Fraser blames that, in part, on the fact that fewer people are around to keep an eye out because of COVID-19. On the flip side, since Bikeways is only open by appointment, it has eliminated the distract-and-grab ploy of people coming into the shop to steal bikes.

Sales are down but, Fraser said, Bikeways is on solid footing to weather this storm.

Besides, with more bikes being turned over by the RCMP, it has more to sell.

Check out the Bikeways web site here.

Check out the Pathways 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.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2020

  • Popular kamloops News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile