MONTREAL - Streetsuds, a newly-launched industrial laundry service, is a business with a twist: its workers have fought homelessness, addiction and mental health issues.

They include people like Jeff who credits the work with putting his priorities back into focus.

“It has gotten me back into a work orientation,” he said. “It gives me something to do in the day. I had too much time on my hands.”

Alain Spitzer launched the initiative after considering a landscaping or carpentry operation but eventually decided that an industrial laundry service would get employees on the floor with less training requirements.

“When we started out own thing, we wanted something viable, long term and teachable, some of these folks haven’t worked for 20 years. The industrial laundry business is teachable and there’s a demand,” said Spitzer.

He quickly raised $35,000 from a few donors but soon realized that he’d need somewhere closer to $200,000.

In May, Streetsuds plugged in its washers and dryers and now has revenues from hotels that send their dirty linens over.

Riding shotgun in the operation is Program Coordinator Kelsey White, who volunteered at the St. James drop-in centre before making her way over to a full-time job helping administer the palace of suds.

The work is changing lives that many might assume would be beyond hope. 

“They’ve struggled to find a place to belong,” said White of the once-embattled employees.

“They can wake every morning and have a purpose and create some meaning and responsibility for their lives, we’re trying to empower these individuals, say 'you can do it, it’s possible,'” she said.

But it’s also a big rush for her to be helping out in such a noble initiative.

“It’s incredibly rewarding, it’s been an amazing experience. I’ve been learning in the process too and it’s worked out better than I imagined,” she said.

To learn more or to get involved contact : Kelsey White at info@stjamescentre.ca, or 514-288-0039.