A business owner in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood has set up a coat donation rack after he said that two sweaters were recently stolen from a dryer in his laundromat.

On Nov. 16, Alex Winch, who owns Beach Solar Laundromat/Monk’s Fine Fabric Care on Queen Street East, near Beech Avenue, posted a note on Facebook about the incident.

He said that a customer had advised him that a couple of her sweaters had gone missing from her dryer load and when he reviewed the surveillance footage he saw a woman enter the laundromat and take the clothing items out.

Winch said the woman was in the process of putting on one of the sweaters when the customer who owned them entered the premises. He said that the woman looked over at the customer who appeared to be searching for her sweaters before stuffing them into a shoulder bag and walking out.

A short while later, Winch said that saw the same woman in the video footage walk by the laundromat as he was cleaning up for the night.

“I stepped outside to talk to her, told her what I had seen on the cameras, and asked her why she had taken the sweaters,” he wrote on his social media post.

"Because I'm f***in freezing," Winch said she replied.

“But what about the person who's sweaters you have taken?,” he said he asked.

"She has a home, and I'm homeless," he said the woman told him.

Winch said he walked and chatted with the woman for several blocks, but never did get the sweaters back.

Monk's Coat Rack

Instead of reporting the incident to police, he came up with was an idea to set up a donation-based coat rack for people in need. He said that anyone who needs a warm coat can come by and get one, no questions asked.

“Monk’s Coat Rack”, which was launched over the weekend, is located just outside the front door of Monk’s Fine Fabric Care, right next door to the Beach Solar Laundromat.

“It's just the beginning of the cold season, and it's going to get colder from here. … What’s it going to be like at the end of January?” Winch said.

“I specifically want the coats to be accessible in the middle of the night when most doors are locked and most of us are warm and asleep. So the coat rack is outdoors and well lit at night.”

Winch said he estimates that roughly 50 coats have already been re-homed.

At the urging of people in the community, he’s also added some hooks to display hats and mitts, which are also free for the taking for those in need.

Winch said he posted about the initiative on a few east-end Facebook groups and said so far the response has been great. Several people have reached out to him about donating or have dropped off coats in person. A number of people in need of a warm coat have also been in touch, he said.

“There’s been lots of positive feedback, lot of people want to donate. … Every day I’m seeing new coats arriving and going as I come and go,” Winch said, adding it’s his hope that other business owners or even local groups might get inspired by his idea and start their own coat rack project.