Cleaning jobs to escape prostitution in Sweden

31st of December 2021
Cleaning jobs to escape prostitution in Sweden

Scandinavian reporter for ECJ Lotte Printz on a successful, socially responsible cleaning initiative
in Sweden.

What do prostitutes, a policeman and cleaning have in common? Well, read on and it’ll all be clear. This is not a bad dad joke, but a true story from Sweden!

The story begins about eight years ago when Simon Widén, the owner of a cleaning company in Stockholm, Sweden, called Himlarent (‘heavenly clean’ in translation) was contacted by some friends who run an organisation helping women leave prostitution. They were hoping he could help out as well. And Simon Widén took up the challenge as he firmly believes that a job can essentially change lives for vulnerable people, among them prostitutes.

He started his own cleaning business, where one third of the staff are vulnerable people in one way or the other, after his parents had helped a woman from Kazakhstan. She was on the verge of being deported from Sweden and was trying to make a living by doing illegal work as a cleaner. Simon Widén then thought to himself that if he started a cleaning company and offered her a proper job, perhaps she could be granted a residence permit. And so she was.

Vulnerable people

This is all history. But then earlier this year, things took a new turn, and this is when the policeman comes into the picture. Another Simon, namely Simon Häggström, a Swedish policeman and major player in fighting prostitution, paid tribute to Simon Widén on Instagram where he has 75,000 followers. Simon Häggström himself called it ‘one of his most important posts’ when praising Widén for helping women get out of the sex industry by offering them jobs in his company.

Interviewed for the Swedish online cleaning magazine in October 2021, Simon Widén explained that the response he received in the wake of Häggström’s post was immense. In the first 24 hours alone he received more than 150 emails and six months on he still hasn’t managed to find the bottom of his inbox.

Asked about whether the former prostitutes working in his company experience any kind of bias from outsiders, Widén said: “There’s never been any negative comments or questions. On the contrary. The customers would also like to help.”

In the interview, Simon Widén himself describes one of his former employees as ‘an incredibly gifted woman with plenty of grit’. In 2015 she formed a construction company with a colleague, but when they ‘split up’, Widén stepped in a year ago, in the midst of the pandemic. They have seven employees, Widén is the owner, but the woman is in charge of everything else but the paperwork.
Despite his success with doing business this way, Simon Widén is not planning on setting up any more companies.

“This is it! Himlarent quickly paid so that both my staff and I get a reasonable salary. Even though I’ve never advertised, the company has grown allowing us to hire one new employee a year,” he explains speaking to Cleannet.

And when Simon the policeman has one’s back, who needs advertising, one might ask!


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