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Support Worker Specialist Program

The SpencerCreo Foundation

Vancouver's SpencerCreo Foundation is a family foundation committed to fostering positive change and empowering individuals by providing transformative opportunities. The foundation promotes education and employment support as pathways to personal growth and success.

At the heart of the foundation's initiatives, subsidized and operated by the foundation, is the SpencerCreo Centre, a hub for small non-profits. The Centre also houses the SpencerCreo Foundation and its innovative Support Worker Specialist Program. 

SpencerCreo Support Worker Specialist Program

In 2014, the SpencerCreo Foundation recognized the importance of cultivating and supporting economic opportunities that drive social change, economic development, and community empowerment. To address this, they forged a partnership with the City of Vancouver, VanCity Community Foundation, and Potluck Catering. Together they developed a program to provide comprehensive employment support to individuals engaged in social enterprises within Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES).
After a successful two-year pilot, the SpencerCreo Foundation identified a funding gap and a lack of accessible human resources support for social impact employers. The foundation decided to continue the program as the SpencerCreo Support Worker Specialists Program and has further refined its frontline approach and expanded its scope to include participants from a range of small social purpose organizations. Through continuous wrap-around support, training, sourcing employment opportunities, and skills development, the program team has played a pivotal role in empowering individuals to enhance their lives, disrupt the cycles of poverty, and strive toward sustainable livelihoods.

The program is designed to celebrate and build upon individuals' unique abilities and potential, ensuring their diverse needs and aspirations are met with dignity and respect. By embracing a person-centred approach, SpencerCreo Support Worker Specialists create an environment where individuals are valued for their strengths and are empowered to reach their full potential. 

The team comprises seven experienced Support Worker Specialists who work one-on-one to help each person maintain successful employment and economic engagement opportunities.  The team helps these employees’ overcome obstacles and develop resilience through compassionate and pragmatic support, mentoring and assistance. They open doors, provide access to various resources and services, and assist with life skills development. Support Worker Specialists offer a dedicated point of contact and serve as case managers, ensuring long-term support and fostering meaningful relationships.


In workplaces, on the street or over coffee, the support provided by the program may include the following:
  • Goal setting, planning, and implementing

  • Empathic and active listening

  • Basic computer literacy skills

  • Assistance in finding and keeping housing

  • Debriefing work-related situations and stressors

  • Conflict resolution support

  • Guidance through the judicial system

  • Access and advocacy for treatment and recovery

  • Enhancing awareness of local support resources

  • General life skills development

In 2023, the foundation embarked on another pilot program, this time in collaboration with Vancouver Coastal Health. This initiative aims to provide employment support tailored explicitly to Peer Workers, who are integral to community work within DTES. Extending its reach and adapting its strategies, the SpencerCreo Foundation program remains dedicated to fostering lasting change and promoting the well-being of individuals in the DTES community.
Tara Taylor, SpencerCreo Foundation Executive Director and a founder of the Support Worker Specialist Program, has been working on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations at a grassroots level in the non-profit sector for 18+ years. She works across multiple disciplines and sectors to develop community systems that promote social justice and balance community well-being and development. She serves on provincial and federal advisory committees and works closely alongside several research projects partnering with the BC Centre of Substance Use and UBC. Most of her work is in Vancouver's DTES, focused on supportive employment, social enterprises, and harm reduction best practices.

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