Windsor

Windsor transitional home launches new business to help clients get back to work

One year since it first opened its doors, Windsor transitional home Hand in Hand Support is celebrating its accomplishments while launching a new program to help clients get back into the workforce.

Hand in Hand Support is starting a tree service business and will offer skilled-trades training

Robert Sandwith is excited about the launch of Windsor's Helping Hands Tree Service, to help those battling addiction transition back into the workforce. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

One year since it first opened its doors, Hand in Hand Support of Windsor, Ont., is launching a new program to help those battling addiction get back into the workforce.

A new tree service business, a new property and skilled-trades training opportunities all mark a new chapter for the non-profit organization.

"We want to have the men and the women back to work, but gradually, learning how to deal with life in a work environment, but still being supported through Hand in Hand," explained Robert Sandwith, co-founder and co-director of the organization, which has three transitional homes in Windsor for men and women in recovery.

The Helping Hands Tree Service launches this week, offering services including tree removal, trimming and hydro line cleaning throughout Windsor-Essex. Program members will learn from and work with certified arbourists with decades of experience.

The organization has also recently acquired a two-acre property in the town of Essex with a 10,000-square-foot shop that they're in the process of renovating to turn it into a space for pre-apprentice training. It also has the capacity to house up to 16 people. 

WATCH | Hand in Hand Support co-founder Robert Sandwith, Hand in Hand resident Devon Orton explain how the tree service will help people in recovery:

Hand in Hand Support launches new business

6 months ago
Duration 0:52
Robert Sandwich, co-founder of Hand in Hand Support, explains that the goal of the new tree service business is to help individuals in recovery, like Devon Orton, get back to work.

Sandwith explained that the Crossroads Centre for Personal Empowerment gifted them a program called Moving Beyond Addiction, a life-skills program that they've also incorporated to help connect their clients with jobs and training.

As well, Hand in Hand is partnering with Women's Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor to bring their female clients into the trades.

"That will give individuals more purpose in what their day is and goals to reach while they're here," Sandwith said.

A life-changing place

Devon Orton hopes to join the Essex program soon.

"It's the next step to my recovery," he said.

Devin Orton arrived at Hand in Hand Support in January, and says it's completely transformed his life. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Orton arrived at Hand in Hand Support on Jan. 29 after a battle with drugs and incarceration. He said the home has transformed his life and has helped him reconnect with his family.

"This is one of the biggest supports in my life. 

"I went from being in a position where I thought I was at the end of my rope, and now I have everything. It's amazing here."

Orton is looking forward to re-entering the workforce thanks to this new avenue Hand in Hand is offering. 

"It's my future. It's what I want. It's structure. It's my life," he said.

"I just had a daughter. I want to be a father, and I just want to live a happy normal life again with no pain, no hurt."

1 year of support

Orton is among more than 100 people who have been helped by Hand in Hand in the last year. 

Demand for services has been "insane," Sandwith explained. 

Hand in Hand Support first opened on March 16, 2021. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

He said they're  at capacity at their homes for men, and they're getting six or seven applications a day. Right now, about 60 men and women are housed at their locations.

It's reflective of a community struggling with a drug epidemic, with opioid overdoses spiking in Windsor-Essex, particularly since the onset of the pandemic.

Since Hand in Hand opened in March 2021, it has obtained charitable status, but has yet to secure government funding, Sandwith explained. 

That's why the group still heavily relies on community support and donations. Over the weekend, they held a car wash with all proceeds going to its Women's Home. 

"We're still applying for grants and hopefully that comes through," Sandwith said.

As for the tree service business, it's not just a way to get individuals back into the workforce. It'll also raise funds for a local charity chosen by each individual client.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katerina Georgieva is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Windsor. She has also worked for CBC in Toronto, Charlottetown, and Winnipeg.

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