Vancouver firm lauded for social solution       The Vancouver Sun   3 Feb 2016     KIM PEMBERTON

Martin Turner has worked for four years as a light duty cleaner at the Vancouver janitorial company The Cleaning Solution.

A Vancouver janitorial company that hires people with mental illness and supports them through their highs and lows has won a national award for social enterprise.

The Cleaning Solution won the Trico Charitable Foundation Social EnterPrize Award, which has a monetary prize of $50,000.

The company, which was started in 2005 by three young men with mental illness, has grown from a business generating $20,000 the first year to one employing 75 people and earning $1.2 million in revenue in 2015.

Since the beginning, the company has offered a wellness program for employees, knowing a worker with mental illness needs more flexibility and understanding of their condition, said Larry Butler, who is a board member.

“When folks aren’t feeling well we are here to support them,” he said. “Maybe they need some time off work — two to three months to have their medication readjusted and they can come back to the job. For us accommodation is not a duty, it’s a secret to our success.”

He said the company has a fulltime employment support manager whose job is to be there for employees. The company also offers workshops on such topics as budgeting and healthy eating, and holds social events.

Martin Turner, who has schizophrenia, has been with the company for four years. Twice he’s had to leave his workplace temporarily because of his health condition, he said.

“I’m happy I was able to come back,” Turner said. “The job keeps me more positive, healthy and gets me out of my place.”

Turner said he’s able to work part-time, which he prefers.

Many of the employees are on disability assistance and can only earn up to an additional $800 per month, and the job allows them to do that, said Shaugn Schwartz, the executive director. He said he hopes the fact their company continues not only to exist after 10 years but to prosper may help combat negative stereotypes around mental illness.

“We are honoured and thrilled with this award, which proves that achieving a healthy bottom line is absolutely compatible with social responsibility,” he said

“It shows me our mandate (of hiring people with mental illness) is making a difference. It’s great to have that tip of the hat,” he said.

Butler said when The Cleaning Solution started, the idea was to create a viable business and not just a “make-work project” for people with mental illness.

The company has about 50 clients and 90 different work sites, primarily in Vancouver, but has expanded to communities like Aldergrove, Burnaby, Richmond, the North Shore, Langley and Surrey. The Social Enter-Prize Award highlights Canadian social enterprises that have a positive impact on communities and individuals that use markets to help solve social problems