A retired Montreal priest has found a second calling: working as a cobbler for the homeless.

In a workshop in the basement of a downtown cathedral, Father Jean-Pierre Couturier and his volunteers mend up to 60 pairs of footwear per week.

Couturier says the charitable hobby was born 20 years ago after a complaint at his old parish about an odd smell.

“This man who had gangrene ... I had suspected it was the shoes and of course, indeed, he had running shoes on probably for the last month without removing them,” he said.

Couturier realized that man wasn’t the only homeless person in need of better shoes.

“Walking is what these guys are doing most of the day,” he says. “They’re being told ‘get off here, pass on,’ so they’re always on their feet and they’re always walking.”

Couturier learned the trade from a master and sources the shoes from shops that would otherwise throw them out.

“They are the customers’ who leave them behind because they have a new pair,” he explained.

While some are falling apart, others just need a good cleaning.

“We’ll see who needs what in terms of care,” Couturier says after picking up a new batch of used shoes. “A bit of love here, a bit of love there, and that’s it.”

With a report from CTV’s Vanessa Lee