Laundry for all: How two women are trying to make laundry services more accessible

Laundry is a necessity that I bet you don’t put much thought into each day. Our own washing machines, our apartments laundry facilities or a laundromat are often easily accessible – you simply wash your clothes whenever you need. However, what happens when that necessity is no longer easily accessible? How would it make you feel to no longer have the luxury of cleaning your clothes whenever you need?

Unfortunately, this is something that people experiencing homelessness and poverty must think about often - when will they be able to wash their clothes next? How will this impact their day to day? Would it be easier to just find new clothes?

In a recent survey of people that access The Mustard Seed’s Housing Focused Shelter operated out of the Knox Evangelical Free Church in Edmonton, the majority (75%) indicated that money and/or transportation was a barrier in their ability to do laundry.

Alycia and Raelene saw these statistics and knew this had to change, so they decided to do something about it.

The two women became the leaders of the Laundry Social Inclusion Pilot Project to close this gap between those who have access to laundry services and those who do not.

The Neighbour Centre operated by The Mustard Seed was the sole provider for laundry services at no cost in and around the Old Strathcona community, however, their closure for renovations left many without access to this necessity.

With the goal of breaking down barriers surrounding access to clean laundry, an innovative partnership was fostered by The Mustard Seed Street Team in Old Strathcona and a local laundromat. With support from community social workers with the Safe Communities and Affordable Housing and Homelessness section of the City of Edmonton, The Mustard Seed was able to offer laundromat vouchers to clients to use at facilities that took part in this partnership.

Laundry Voucher

Through their research and surveys, Alycia and Raelene saw that laundry is about much more than simply having access to clean clothes.

“It’s about how clothes make us feel, the spaces they allow us to occupy, and the opportunities available to us when we are able to put out best selves forward.”

Not having access to laundry or clean clothing can be a socially isolating factor to many experiencing homelessness. The creation of this pilot project is to go beyond just giving affordable access to laundry facilities but breaking down those barriers that can cause isolation to those experiencing homelessness in our communities.

Having the right to access laundry services gives a sense of control over our own lives and environment. So, maybe next time you do your laundry you will think more about how easy it is for you to access clean clothes - and how not having could really impact your life.