Alternet – Marcus Harris knows the value of clean clothes. Having been homless himself, he also knows what harmful assumptions a dirty shirt can have for anyone fighting their way out of poverty. Harris is currently at the helm of the Laundry Truck, a new project from Denver’s Bayaud Enterprises which has transformed an old truck into a mobile laundromat to serve Denver’s homeless.
This seemingly simple tool could have powerful implications for people without access to clean clothing. “Providing a service like clean clothes and no cost goes a long way toward cultivating a more positive self-image for people who are routinely ostracized,” Harris said in an interview with Denver’s ABC 7 local news.
Bayaud came up with the idea in the spring of 2016, as a way to reuse a commercial truck from its paper shredding business. Rather than selling the truck, which was in good condition, they saw it as a way to fill a crucial void. Denver’s homeless currently only have access to four facilities for laundry, all with restrictive hours and usage limitations that prevent many of the people who need it most from using it.
Bayaud partnered with design firm Radian and advocacy organization Denver Homeless Outloud to renovate the truck, installing six stacked washer and dryer units, a utility sink, operator and outreach desk, a folding table and a water heater. According to Bayaud’s website, the truck will be open three days a week, eight hours a day its first year, with a projected 8,250 loads. To plan for expansion and ensure the truck’s longevity, the organization is also exploring a “fee-for-service model targeting government, landlords, and individuals who can afford to pay as one possible source of earned income.” The renovation is expected to cost $90,000 total.
The idea of mobile laundry isn’t only taking off in Denver. On the other side of the world, two Australian friends, Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi, createdOrange Sky Laundry, a retrofitted van named Sudsy that sports a pair of washer-dryers, a sink and a generator. They drive Sudsy around Brisbane, serving an estimated 300 homeless people. Sudsy quickly gained press attention and a flood of donations, which enabled the pair to turn Orange Sky Laundry into a non-profit that serves the entire country, with six vans and counting, six days a week. Orange Sky also serves victims of natural disasters as well as the chronically homeless, according to a Good Housekeeping article.
The Laundry Truck also has expansion plans, and acording to ABC 7, hopes to one day add mobile showers, haircuts and job training. For now, as Harris explained on ABC 7’s tour of the laundromat in progress, “Right now, the air conditioner needs work, the windshield needs cleaning…it’s kind of a beast right now, but we’re going to turn it into a beauty, I guarantee you.”