From Addiction to Redemption at Gateway Linens

by chrismcgregor
Categories: Divisional News

September 11, 2019, is an unforgettable day in Iain Bateman’s life.

Earlier that year, the Toronto resident was at rock bottom, having lost his job, his home, and his girlfriend to his ongoing alcohol addiction. With all bridges burned, offers of support ignored, and no longer welcome to stay with family and friends, Iain moved into a rooming house in Toronto.

In one last desperate attempt to help, friends and family, including his devoted sister, rallied around Iain with a final intervention to end his addiction once and for all. And when he left detox in September 2019, Iain was fully committed to transforming a life lost to addiction to one of possibility.

“I am surrounded by similar people who are in various stages of recovery from substance abuse. They speak my language, and it is a great place to talk. No one can help an addict like another addict. Here I get emotional support from people I can talk frankly with,” Iain says.

Since early 2020, 61-year-old Iain has been part of the inspirational staff team at The Salvation Army Gateway Linens and Disposal Services, laundering and folding towels and sheets from other local Toronto shelters. The industrial laundry is much more than a place to wash linens, it is commercial social enterprise that provides a positive and supportive paid work environment for staff where everyone is held accountable and responsible for their actions. As a retraining program offering life skills training and community integration, it is also a place where future dreams of employment, education and housing take root.

Staff are regularly given scheduled time off to make it to meetings, medical appointments or to attend class. Iain takes advantage of the flexibility to study at Centennial College where he is in the addiction worker support program, with the goal of helping others through their struggles, in the same way he was helped.

“I want to guide people through their recovery and to work with addicts – people like me. Morally it feels great and there are just so many people that need help right now who don’t know how to identify the signs,” Iain says.

In the years before Gateway Linens, Iain was deep in his addiction, working in the stressful restaurant business, and picking up the vices that often accompany the industry. Unable to recognize the signs himself, Iain’s family stepped in that one last time, convincing him to get the help he needed at the alcohol detox program at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto.

From there, Iain joined the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Enrichment (DARE) program at Good Shepherd Ministries, a pre-treatment and post-detoxification program that offers homeless men with addictions a safe and supportive place to live.

Determined to reclaim his life, Iain’s 12-step counselling sessions successfully brought the self-realization, acceptance, and transformation needed to finally beat his addiction. He has not had a drink of alcohol since March of 2019 and it is that success that led him to The Salvation Army Gateway Linens and Disposal Services, where he’s been working for more than three years.

Gateway is a supportive and welcoming space, with like-minded participants sharing common experiences with homelessness and addiction. Gateway staff are a committed and principled team, and Iain is grateful for the opportunity, which has taught him humility and patience while working with others, transferable skills that can be used in the future.

“When you are thrown together with different people from different background and lifestyles and different work ethic you have to get along and you need understanding. I didn’t used to be so patient.”

Iain’s biggest praise is reserved for Gateway Linens manager Stewart King and the stability he provides. He points out how Stewart values everyone’s opinion as a tough but fair supervisor who keeps staff informed and included in decision making.

To learn more about Gateway Linens and Disposal Services, its life-changing programs and services, visit