Some of the greatest ideas come out of our collaborative partnerships, and Bridges of Hope is so thankful for our community partners! While meeting with other agencies to talk about some short-term solutions for homelessness, I learned that people were spending the night in local laundromats because there aren’t other options for shelter in our community. While on the subject of laundromats, we’ve discussed the fact that we all have policies against giving cash straight to our clients, and that local laundromats use quarters, not tokens. Our staff sat down to problem solve, and Quarters for Hope was born.
The cost of laundry is about more than just running the machine. So, obviously, you need detergent. Let’s say that costs 20 cents a load. Cheap, right? Oh – do you have laundry in your home? Yes! Great, unless you are struggling to pay your electric, gas, water, or propane bill, right? If any of those things are turned off, or you don’t have the machine in your home—time to go to the laundromat.
And here is where more costs start adding up. IF you live somewhere that has a laundry area in the building, let’s estimate that it costs $3.00 to wash and dry your load. BUT, if you need to leave to go to a laundromat, you now either have to carry your laundry, or drive. So let’s add another $2.00 in for gas. For a single adult, 2 loads of laundry a week is likely when you add in household linens, like towels and bedding. That’s about $8.40 a week or $33.60 a month. Now let’s make that a family of 5—$34.00 a week or $128.00 a month.
What I know from my work in Resource Connection Services, is that many households just don’t have room in their budgets for these costs. Maybe their hours got cut or the job they have barely covers basic needs. Maybe they missed work due to sickness and are struggling to catch back up. For whatever reason, the fact is that laundry is a task that most of us don’t love and are willing to procrastinate., but needs to get done.
Complicating this fact is that many families don’t have closets bursting with options of clothes to wear. In our experience, it’s common to have a few shirts, a few pairs of jeans, and underwear and socks. Wearing the same clothes day after day has social consequences. Classmates and employers notice. If clothes get soiled and you aren’t able to handwash, they get stained, but you have to keep wearing them. Odor – no matter how clean you are when you put the clothes on each morning, eventually it will become obvious. All of these things can have negative impacts – whether on your own self-esteem, social interactions with your peers. It could even affect your employment as well.
What it boils down to is that laundry is an essential part of living but really complicated to when added to the current situation we are all in. The struggle is real and we must help each other through this with dignity and hope.
We planned to launch our first Quarters for Hope laundry event, but then schools were closed and social distancing started, so unfortunately Laundry Days at the laundromats will have to wait for now. Several churches and businesses have jumped on board with our program and made donations, and we were able to come alongside our friends at Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen and Operation Sandwich to offer laundry soap last night at the food distributions! Through these generous donations, we were able to help hundreds of people get laundry detergent, and we plan to do this each week.
As wonderful as our partnerships are, we do need help to sustain this program and we want to help more families in the community. So, how can you get involved?
If you are in need, we will be at Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen on Thursdays from 5:30-6. Come by, pick up a bag of food, and we will offer you some laundry soap, too! If that is not a time that works for you or you have other barriers to getting there, call Bridges of Hope at 218-825-7682. Our Community Resource Coordinators are checking messages Monday – Friday and would love to have a conversation with you.
If you can donate, we’d appreciate the support. Due to current social distancing restrictions, the easiest way is to donate money through the link on our website and note that it is for Quarters for Hope. If you have a business that would like to donate in-kind items (laundry soap) email email@example.com to let us know. Once restrictions are eased, we can take in-person donations.
Remember that Hope, in all of its forms, is what sustains all of us in hard times. In this case, quarter by quarter, load by load, we can bring hope.