Every month, Awesome Kingston gives away a $1,000 micro-grant to a local project pitched by its creator(s). These days, the pitch party is happening virtually, but the outcome is still the same: No-strings-attached money is given to the winner to help them develop the projects that Awesome Kingston thinks will keep Kingston awesome.
The project that took home the May grant is A Clean Start – a free laundry service for people in need in KFL&A. Mark da Silva, the project’s founder, is a piano mover, handyman and determined local entrepreneur.
In his travels around Kingston, da Silva said he had noticed increased numbers of people dealing with homelessness.
“I reached out to a friend that works at the Integrated Care Hub to ask what things would be the most useful to someone in this position. Laundry services, among other things, were mentioned,” he said. “This struck a chord with me as I have repaired laundry machines for years and usually have a few extra in my garage.”
He had the idea to bring laundry services to those who perhaps could not otherwise access them. “I had a trailer, a bunch of laundry machines, and a vision. This is where the journey started.”
“I do many things and have a knack for doing things well and frugally,” da Silva continued. “I have good interpersonal skills and know-how to get things done. I am determined to make this work and plan to offer this service for free as long as I can.”
The project is nearly ready to go, da Silva explained. He has outfitted a trailer with laundry machines, generators and a greywater filtration system, and is working hard, putting on the finishing touches.
“I felt that it was the simplest and safest way to address the logistics involved with greywater,” he said. “Transporting the greywater means getting registered as a hazardous waste operator and registering the vehicle and trailer as well. This seemed far too complicated and expensive, with many strings attached. Filtering the water meant that we could reuse the water for lawns, gardens or other watering applications. Filtering the water can give the trailer the ability to show up to remote locations that may not have sanitary sewer access.”
He said that, ideally, A Clean Start will connect with other organizations offering help to people in the community, and add the option of doing laundry to other services provided to underhoused populations. As a self-employed handyman, da Silva said he is flexible with this service and hopes to be available when opportunities present themselves.
According to da Silva, the money from Awesome Kingston will go toward water testing costs for his greywater system, and for the final materials needed to get his trailer ready to go.
“The trailer is able to function, but is not completely set up at the moment,” da Silva told Kingstonist. “The trailer is my work trailer that I use on a regular basis. I have designed the laundry system so that it can be loaded and unloaded from the trailer as needed. It will be this way until I can afford a trailer solely dedicated to the laundry service.”
“I truly believe this service is needed and a worthy cause. We’ve all put on dirty clothes before because we were too lazy or didn’t want to do laundry, but imagine not having a choice due to money, distance, physical abilities, or weather,” he concluded. “The pandemic has highlighted some of the inequalities in our society, we are all in the same storm but not all of us have boats.”