For those experiencing homelessness, living with addiction or recovering from severe mental health challenges, finding and keeping a job can be a struggle.

A new study being conducted by the province aims to consider these potential challenges in the Downtown Eastside specifically, and look at innovative approaches to address them. 

Some challenges can include accessing a computer to look for work, compiling a resume, making up for possible employment gaps or addressing criminal history. Once a job is found, new routines might be a challenge, and employers may need to be flexible and understanding. 

"At its heart, this research project is about helping people find and keep meaningful employment by meeting them where they are and providing them with wraparound supports," said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction in a news release. 

"We know that when people get jobs where they feel valued, it improves their quality of life, provides a sense of purpose and enhances self-esteem and social belonging."

The research, being conducted by The Canadian Mental Health Association - Vancouver Fraser Branch, in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia, will hopefully shed light on the unique labour market challenges in the Downtown Eastside. 

Seventy-two participants will be referred to the program and the project team will look at individual placements and supports – including peer support – to help increase access to employment. 

Included in the individual placement will be assisted entry into the workforce and wraparound supports like housing, getting identification, filing taxes, money management, financial planning, debt consolidation and mental health support. Employers will also be assisted with any challenges that arise. 

Half of the 72 participants will receive that approach, while the other half will receive more traditional employment support. 

"Our vision is to embed social and health services in a one-stop integrated model of care for people living in the Downtown Eastside," said Skye Barbic, lead scientist, UBC. 

"To date, little work has focused on the impact of employment as a health and social intervention. Our project aims to bring together systems that are traditionally difficult to navigate for people living in the Downtown Eastside."

The project will end in February, 2020 and has received $364,235 in government funding.