Paul Gregory and John Mangos hopped in a car headed off to pick up some bags of dirty laundry, while Ed Kiwanuka began to sort sheets and blankets in the basement of the Travelodge Shelter in Peel Region.
You may call this social innovation. There is another word for it. Go-o-o-oal!
Paul is a housing consultant, and the founder of Street Soccer Canada. He works with homeless guys, and recruits them for indoor soccer. He knew that the Salvation Army had some industrial washers and dryers that were idle.
It occurred to him that if he had access to the machines, the homeless guys he knew could do laundry for a reasonable rate, and the proceeds could go towards funding the nicest sports story in the country.
It is complicated, of course, and there is much more to it than that, but it got done. Paul secured a contract for the washing, drying and folding of the daily laundry for two shelters last April; a third shelter may come on board soon.
The dryers are on lease; the washing machines — industrial front-loaders, real beauties — belong to Peel Region.
The basement smelled sweet, the way laundries do.
He said, “I was in a shelter for two weeks.” He now has a place that he shares with others.
He managed to get out of Africa, and he built a life here, and he was a success in business until he was laid low by depression; his world collapsed, he lost his family, and he hit bottom. Now he is making his way back.
Just then, John and Paul showed up with more bags of laundry, and they pitched in to help.
John’s story is somewhat different, or maybe it is the same in a different way. He had been a millwright. He used cocaine for years. It cost him everything. And?
“I quit cold.”
Rare is the man who does that.
How did he manage? “When I was in the shelter, I told my counselor I needed a safe environment.” She listened to him closely. The average stay in the shelter is two weeks. John stayed for 10. “I wasn’t idle. I took out the garbage. I cleaned the yard. I think that helped.”
How did he get involved in indoor soccer?
“When I was in the shelter, they asked if I wanted to play. The first couple of times, I said no. Now I’m getting in shape, making new friends — before, I didn’t have friends I could count on or trust.” Now he has friends, and useful work.
Joe Fiorito appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org