The Laundry Truck
Maintaining positive hygiene is critical for many individuals who are attempting to emerge from homelessness or extreme poverty. The stereotype of the homeless individual includes many misconceptions that are often driven by something as simple as a dirty shirt. Primary hygiene needs such as laundry become secondary or even tertiary as individuals must focus on the most basic acts of survival. This is part of the cycle that locks people into poverty. Without access to free and accessible laundry services, how can people apply for a job or for housing?
In the Spring of 2016, Bayaud Enterprises retired a commercial truck that was used in their paper shredding business. Rather than sell the truck, which is in good condition, We saw an opportunity to create a mobile laundry truck. Given thirty years of success and strong community relationships with Radian, Denver Homeless Outloud, and other service providers and advocacy organizations, The Laundry Truck initiative (from here forward TLT) is well positioned to create and implement a mobile laundry unit. TLT’s goals in this project are 3-fold:
- To alleviate the cost, health, and safety issues associated with laundry services for people experiencing extreme poverty and/or homelessness.
- To provide job training for people experiencing extreme poverty and/or homelessness (0-30% AMI). The Laundry Truck will also provide opportunity for small business development through generation of earned income.
- To educate and do outreach using the Laundry Truck as a point of contact to build trust with individuals who experience severe persistence mental illness and homelessness.
In partnership with Radian and Denver Homeless Outloud, TLT’s design maximizes functionality in relation to the service needs of the target population. The truck will include 6 stacked washer and dryer units running the length of the truck, a utility sink, operator and outreach desk, a folding table and a water heater. In its first year, the truck will service the target community three days per week, eight hours a day. TLT’s projected load cycle for the first year is 8,250 loads for people experiencing poverty. Concurrently, TLT will pursue a fee-for-service model targeting government, landlords, and individuals who can afford to pay as one possible source of earned income.
The Laundry Truck will serve as a contact point with individuals experiencing extreme poverty and homelessness. The truck will be staffed with two workers responsible for the general operation of the machines, as well as to provide educational materials to affected populations. The plan includes gathering and disseminating important information and handouts regarding additional services throughout Metro Denver, especially for those who are averse to receiving services from traditional brick and mortar service providers. Many cities throughout the nation are pursuing mobile hygiene units as critical components of their continuum of care. The outreach station will serve as a rapid response conduit alerting homeless people of inclement weather or other urgent matters, as well as being able to receive important information from the target population. TLT will also document key aspects of this project in order to create a user-friendly “how-to” document.
The anticipated outcome of The Laundry Truck is of course the build-out of an aesthetically pleasing and inviting unit. In its first year, the TLT is planning to have the truck run three days per week, 8 hours a day. The first year capacity is 8,250 loads. Regarding employment, the project will create two .7 FTE (28 hours/week) positions that will be hired out of the target population. Bayaud Enterprises currently works with over a dozen hotels in the Denver Metro area. Laundry services are often in demand. The project envisions individuals trained at the Laundry Truck being placed into permanent employment with hotel partners.
Looking into the future, The Laundry Truck can be expanded as a small business venture for those who are traditionally marginalized from mainstream employment. Its deployment in the field addressing the needs of people experiencing extreme poverty and/or homelessness will provide an amazing opportunity to develop and refine a business plan for deployment with other, paying clientele. Potential customers include affordable housing developments without access to laundry units, tiny home villages, emergency shelters, transitional housing and government agencies.
Regarding education, the Laundry Truck will provide educational services for the target community. The target community (0-30% AMI) includes people who are often averse to receiving services from traditional brick and mortar providers. By developing trust and relationships with this service-resistant community, TLT will engage with them in seeking culturally competent services and problem-solving in order to make the homeless experience rare and brief in Denver.
The Laundry Truck will also provide job training and placement for people experiencing poverty or homelessness. Given Bayaud’s extensive employment services, TLT will recruit individuals from Bayaud’s client base at every possible aspect of the project: from building to staffing. Once operational, Bayaud will create two .7 FTE positions (28 hours/week). Participants will not only gain marketable skills, they will be paid a living wage as employees with Bayaud.
A key aspect of this project is economic sustainability, which requires the truck to generate earned income. The goal for the first year is $10,000. You can contribute to the campaign to get the Laundry Truck started in Denver. TLT will also generate these funds from diverse sources and clientele, including but not limited to housing developments without access to laundry units, and tiny home villages. As TLT generates more paying customers, this revenue will augment labor costs.
The Laundry Truck will create multiple methods of evaluation. First, Bayaud Enterprises will implement an advisory council tasked with oversight of the project. The advisory council will consist of employees of the Laundry Truck, Bayaud staff, Radian, Denver Homeless Outloud and representatives from the target community. The Advisory council will meet quarterly and will be responsible for implementing a bi-yearly evaluation system utilizing a service tracking database system. Data points will include; How many people served, how many loads washed, how many locations services delivered, and others to be developed.
While the proof of concept for a laundry truck has not been established in Denver, similar projects are proliferating in other cities across the country. We are on the precipice of a new era in addressing the urgent needs of people experiencing poverty and homelessness, where homeless individuals are taking the lead in their own journey out of poverty.
Visit the Laundry Truck Website to learn more.