Skip to comments.A laundry service for the homeless loses its home [nasty business?]
Posted on 01/01/2012 3:50:38 PM PST by SJackson
An unusual program to help homeless people do their wash is being booted from the Madison laundromat where it has been operating for the past six months.
Around 50 homeless people a month have been taking the bus to Laundry Land at 1131 N. Sherman Ave., where they get free detergent, coins for the machines and a temporary loan of clean clothes, since some people walk in with only the clothes on their backs, says Donna Asif, an advocate for the homeless.
She set up Project Bubbles to be a companion to a service providing showers for the homeless she established in the basement of the First United Methodist church downtown in 2007. Keeping clean is no little thing even for people who lack big things like food and shelter, she says. She has seen grown men bury their heads in their towels and cry after having their first shower in days and changing into a freshly laundered set of clothes.
Asif says she is "terribly disappointed" that management at Laundry Land is ending the program there Thursday, Dec. 29, but grateful they gave it a chance.
"They were resistant from the beginning, but willing to try," she says. "They were worried that people would just loiter, that other customers wouldn't be happy, that there would be drinking on the premises," she recalls of her initial conversations with laundromat managers.
None of those things happened, she says. But there were other behaviors some people found peculiar. One fellow, for example, spread all of his clean belongings out on a table into piles, folding and refolding them for a long time.
"His backpack was his closet," Asif says. She suspects he was enjoying the thrill of finally having his worldly possessions clean, organized and fragrant. But it made management uncomfortable.
Another time a homeless person suffering from incontinence put his soiled pants into the washer. Asif doesn't see how that is much different from parents who toss their toddlers' dirty clothes into the machines, but it was the final straw for management, she recalls.
Shortly before Christmas, she got a call from the owner. Thursday, Dec. 29 would be the last day the facility would accept the program's coupons.
A Laundry Land staffer reached on the phone said helping homeless customers ended up "taking too much time." This staffer would not give his name and talked only a few moments before hanging up.
"I'd love to do it but we can't anymore. It got to the point where helping them took away from our regular customers," he said.
It is one more loss, Asif says, in a year when "our homeless neighbors" have been shut out of former hang outs in the basement of the state Capitol and the downtown library (undergoing renovations).
The homeless get a bad rap for being unkempt, dirty and smelly. But it's usually not by choice.
"They want a hot shower and clean clothes just like you and me," she says. "They just don't have the access."
She knows homeless people who have washed their clothes in the lakes, in fountains, and in the sinks of city hall and the Capitol. Hot air grates make good dryers. "Some of that you can get ticketed for," she says.
She has found another place where people who are homeless can do their wash: Affiliated Laundries on East Johnson Street. It is within walking distance of downtown shelters.
But because the facility does not have in-house staff, Asif explains, volunteers are needed to hand out the clean clothes, the soap and coins, which means that hours for Project Bubbles will be limited for now to just Monday afternoons, noon to 4.
The only other place people who are homeless can go to do a free wash is the emergency shelter run by Porchlight at the downtown Grace Episcopal Church, where lines are long and the dryers don't work well, says Kelly, a 50-year-old former Marine and chef. He became homeless after being laid off from a job in Wausau, and is a regular user of the shower and laundry programs Asif runs.
"I'm keeping clean," he says. "You could never even tell I was homeless if you didn't see my bag."
He is alluding to the sleeping bag he carries with him, along with a backpack containing a few changes of clothes, a chess set, and a John Grisham novel -- another bag with his warm winter clothing was stolen last week, he says.
Nobody wants to look or smell like the stereotype of a homeless person, he says. "People think you're dirty, a drunk or a thief," he says. Or even worse, he says, invisible. "People don't look at you," he says. "They just walk right on past."
Asif is looking for another facility willing to host the laundry program and volunteers interested in helping out with the shower or laundry program. If interested, contact her at 608-609-8522.
That said, I think cleaning up the homeless is a great idea. Donna need to get some kid at UW to set a website up for her, I looked, I'd have posted a link if I saw one. And if the homeless pose a problem at commercial laundromats, the solution may be charitable facilities, similar to shelters. Homeless don't get vouchers for The Four Seasons. Project Bubbles seems to be a good idea that needs to find it's place.
There are so many places going out of business, getting the equipment shouldn't be all that difficult, and enough tradesmen in every congregation to handle the hookups. Even if it was new commercial equipment, that too shouldn't be all that hard to fundraise for. And especially include oversized machines for washing bedding and sleeping bags.
Add in some simple showers, and a civic minded faith group could provide the cleanliness that God desires.
>>Project Bubbles seems to be a good idea that needs to find it’s place.<<
I agree. It sounds like they might need the services of a hotel-type industrial strength and size washer and dryer facility. Even if it once a week I think it would make a big difference.
She should try something in that direction...(?)
I've dealt with homeless, and while most are easy to get along with... there are some that are just crazy. Granny can't be expected to cope with the crazy ones.
I truly don't understand. I see these people as freeloaders.....of course they want free laundry...and free food and free shelter. The oilfields in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, the Dakotos, Montana....etc are BOOMING. Get a job washing dishes at the local hash slinger....
I lived for a year and a half out in the wilderness without running water. I did have access to water, but there was no tap.
You can stay clean, and out there, who cares if you stand nekked on a pallet and pour water over your head... Except for me, when it dropped below 0F.
One of the best things that happened after I came back to civilization was that first hot shower....
You can't have any idea how good that is, until you do without for that long.
I still say a little prayer of thanks today when I slip into a hot bathtub.
The laundromat has a business to run. Being invaded by the homeless who have to change their clothes to wash their clothes and hanging around until they are done is not very conducive to running a business.
Would you want to use that washer afterwards?
Many of these homeless should not be on the street because they cannot take care of themselves. But they cannot be in an institution because, I suppose, that some republican president took away the funding.
Exactly, I would have been one of the paying customers who would have found another laundromat.
It was becoming a nuisance to the normal laundromat clientele, and that couldn’t help the program. As a private charity venture this is something people of right mind and good will should cheer (no pun on the popular laundry detergent intended). Perhaps scheduling could get around some of the problem, bringing in the coupon clients during times when the laundromat would otherwise be almost idle.
Sounds like there’s a need. I’ve been in this position before myself.
Would you hire someone who looked unclean without a spare set of clothes? I’ve been fortunate to keep a set that I never wear so that if I do need to do so, I can wear that and keep the stuff that I do wear, for most days.
Ask yourself this. If you’re going on about how they are lazy and without jobs, what’s one of the simple things that would help them walk in and actually land a job? This.
I suppose after a good bleach cleaning. It was more a public appearance issue than a genuine sanitation issue. What do people normally put into washing machines — sparkling clean clothes?
If they had your skills, intellegence, and background, I would agree. Some of these folks don't have much of an IQ, or skills, or have something in their background that keeps them from getting employment.
When your wallet gets swiped, it costs money to get a new DL and SS card. And for want of a nail, the war can be lost.
I believe that Christian Charity should be based on helping those that NEED help.
If they are free-loaders, we should help them hit the road. If they need help, we should help them.
But it takes someone hardcore to dig through the BS and sort out the sponges from the truly needy.
No. Another reason to take it service out of the private sector and into the charitable sector, where, hopefully, these things can be dealt with without economic impact.
I suppose government could do it. Obama Laundromats, free for the 99% I can see it now.
Silliness aside, I do think this is a good idea if managed properly. This is why we need charitable organizations, not government.
Mine almost always have skid marks somewhere in them.
Is why God invented bleach. ;)
Seriously, it is more appearance than sanitation. Over 160F, not many diseases can survive. Modern equipment and soaps break down any fecal matter and it goes away.
Not poopy-pants for sure.
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