Training for workforce integration.
DC Cleaning operates under the umbrella of Destination Café, a social enterprise operated by Supportive Housing In Peel (SHIP). DC Cleaning is a community-based business with a social mission to provide a supportive and flexible environment, competitive compensation, a sense of purpose, and dignity and respect through employment opportunities for individuals with mental health issues.
Located in Port Credit in Mississauga, DC Cleaning and Destination Café are run by Supportive Housing In Peel, an organization with a mission to optimize quality of life through community based housing and mental health services. We employ a diverse group of youth, women, individuals with disabilities, and people from low-income backgrounds.
DC Cleaning business stemmed from our social enterprise café operations. At the beginning, we learned on the go, as our parent organization did not have extensive expertise in community development or social enterprise at that time. The storefront of our Destination Café had limited capacity, offering few jobs for people we supported. In addition, we found that some individuals with mental health illness worked far better independently and did not necessary need to engage with people. The cleaning business offshoot was because some people were looking for this type of employment.
One of the first team leaders at DC Cleaning was our client with mental health who had a background in the restaurant business. He had basic understanding of what was required for cleaning and was really good in this area. Our parent organization also engaged a person with social enterprise experience, who began discussions with SHIP because she saw an opportunity for cleaning different spaces that SHIP owned.
The initial concept of DC Cleaning involved supporting mental health clients through peer cleaning. This did not work; it was not cost effective for individuals to pay for our services as two cleaners were required for each assignment (for safety reasons). We now provide cleaning services for common spaces in buildings.
We clean offices, recreational centres, and other common spaces in buildings. DC Cleaning does not currently provide services for individual clients. DC Cleaning contracts bring a consistent revenue stream into our social enterprise.
Generally, our target clients are other nonprofit organizations. It has been a natural synergy between DC Cleaning and our parent organization: as SHIP grew its services and housing, we benefited from contract opportunities to clean spaces in buildings it purchased.
The training and retention have been a challenge. Many people try cleaning but do not choose to continue. This type of work is not for everyone; it takes patience, and some tasks our employees are asked to do are challenging.
With so many locations, transportation can also create issues for our employees. We try to find sites close to their home so they do not have to travel far. DC Cleaning also owns a van, but it can be hard to find a designated driver who would wait several hours for our employees while they are working.
Attendance issues can negatively affect our business. We lose the revenue when we cannot replace shifts for our employees who do not show up for work.
It is important to have people with experience with your target population. Without employees, there is no business. Running a sustainable business is hard when we are not able to consistently fill shifts. To retain and engage people we support, we strive to understand their needs and what makes them click.
Having someone with business and marketing sense is crucial for the social enterprise growth. For example, we currently want to learn how to engage our audience through social media.
We are researching ideas on how to keep our employees interested and engaged.
DC Cleaning is part of Destination Café, a social enterprise owned and operated by Supportive Housing In Peel. The parent organization pays for the manager’s salary and subsidizes the rent for the café, but we keep our own ledger to separate expenses. For DC Cleaning, we provide our own training and cleaning products.
DC Cleaning grew as our parent organization expanded, getting us contracts to clean the buildings it purchased. We have also been supported by Region of Peel and other organizations that use our services.
Impacts & Outcomes
At the beginning, we started with 4-5 individuals, and now we employ 33 part-time staff. The people with mental illness who work at our social enterprise earn additional income, taking steps towards independent living. Having an employment also help them develop a sense of belonging and purpose.
Vision for the Future
We would like to reach out to more nonprofits in Brampton and Mississauga to promote our cleaning services so we can grow employment opportunities for the people we support. We also have plans to implement a more in-depth training for employees coming into DC Cleaning. Our team is also exploring an idea of developing an interior painting social enterprise.