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Social enterprise RadiCare aims to tackle litter in Calgary

A new startup social enterprise venture is asking Calgary organizations and businesses to consider that homeless individuals can be the solution to cleaning up litter, waste, and discarded needles.

RadiCare was formed recently by UCalgary students and alumni to help the chronically underemployed homeless population in the city to find meaningful, barrier-free work, all while addressing an issue facing Calgary.

“There are so many barriers to employment for people experiencing homelessness. We’re really talking to folks who are wanting to see ways to re-enter the workforce, but the mainstream workforce market were not giving opportunities to,” said Bill Zheng, one of the co-founders of RadiCare.

The organization is providing homeless Calgarians with on-the-job training, new uniforms, and most importantly said Zheng, a pathway to grow into more responsibility as shift leaders or management if they choose—or as a stepping stone to other employment.

RadiCare has partnered with local social service organizations Calgary Drop-In Centre, Mustard Seed, Alpha House, Momentum Calgary, and for-profit business 1-800 GOT JUNK to provide training and mentorship for employees.

“Everyone’s talking about housing—housing as a stabilizing factor—it is much needed, but so is employment. Employment gives people a source of income, but it doesn’t end there. It also gives people a sense of purpose, community, and therefore improves your mental health,” said Zheng.

“When you’re going to work you have a purpose to get up in the morning, and actually organize your day around work. So it’s absolutely needed for people experiencing homelessness to feel better about themselves, being dignified and get them to the next step that they need, whether or not that is, further employment or housing.”

RadiCare looking for inner-city clients

So far the venture has signed up two clients: Cathedral Church of the Redeemer which is located in the Downtown Core, and the Beltline Business Improvement Area.

“We are targeting any property managers, especially in the inner city that have potential issues with vulnerable populations or not, throwing garbage or vandalizing buildings,” said Zheng.

He said that the RadiCare staff would be engaged in the business of beautification, and volunteers who have experience in the vulnerable population sector would then also be present to work with any homeless individuals in the area.

“We’re picking up litter, we’re educating people, we’re we’re liaising with businesses, and we’re engaging everyone who is performing the littering actions.”

Zheng said that that last piece goes beyond just Calgary’s homeless population, and includes anyone, including visitors to the city, who might be littering.

He said that the major advantage of having RadiCare staff, as opposed to relying on 311 calls, was the speed of the service.

“When a private sector company like us, stepping into here, we are catering our service to our clients depending on their needs. Whether or not that’s addressing people, treating homelessness on property, making boundaries, and actually cleaning up the debris left over.”

Profits to be used to support pop-up care villages

Zheng said that the profits generated by RadiCare would be used to support the semi-annual pop-up care villages that have provided services to homeless Calgarians.

Although, he said, RadiCare was operating at arms length from the non-profit that is now running the villages, RadiCalgary.

“The revenue generated from RadiCare ventures, that is not going back into operations and employee costs, will go 100% into the operation of RadiCalgary, which will support programs like the pop-up care village.”

For more information on RadiCare, or to get a quote on services, see www.radicareventures.ca.