Last April, Bayaud Enterprises launched The Laundry Truck, a mobile laundromat equipped with a suite of washers and dryers to provide hygiene services for Denver’s homeless. The venture, a partnership with Denver Homeless Out Loud and Radian design group, was received with huge public support when it was unveiled. We decided to check in and see how it’s going now that they’re entering their first winter.
As of the beginning of December, the truck has processed over 25,000 pounds of laundry. That’s over 1,700 loads serving at least 2,200 people.
“We’ve exceeded all our expectations and goals,” said Scott Kerr, Director of the Employment and Opportunity Center at Bayaud Enterprises.
How else does Kerr qualify success? For one thing, the truck has hardly broken down so far this year.
“We’ve only had one day where we totally airballed service because we had a mechanical failure,” he said. “That’s really good because there’s a lot of moving parts on that thing.”
They did experience some frozen lines a few weeks ago, Kerr said. That’s something he’s a little concerned about now that winter is upon us, but he said he’s confident they’ll figure out how to keep working despite the weather.
The folks who use the truck seem to be pretty happy with it, too. Kerr said their regular appearance at the main Denver Public Library building now has people expecting them. The truck can service about 30 loads a day; they had trouble filling up all those spots when they were getting started and showing up less regularly at more locations.
“When we first started, we wanted to serve everyone,” he said. “We’re kind of narrowing it down to have maximum impact.”
That people know when and where they’ll be now, Kerr said, means they can wring the most out of each day in operation.
“It is amazing, and I’m speaking on behalf of the library staff and customers,” said Elissa Hardy, the downtown library’s resident social worker.
In the last few years, DPL has made a concerted effort to be a serve the entire Denver community; part of that has been direct outreach to people experiencing homelessness. Hardy said she’s glad to have another resource on hand for people, and she’s started to notice indirect benefits too.
“They’re actually more engaged with staff because they’re not trying to hide,” she said, embarrassed by odor or dirty clothes. She said she has a feeling that it’s helped decrease occurrences of “behavior incidents,” too.
“It helps people feel comfortable and safe,” she said, and that’s good for everyone who uses the library.
Looking to the future, Kerr said he’s excited to see what the program’s momentum will bring. They’ve already bought another truck and are gearing up to double their capacity in 2018. If nothing else, the second unit will be a backup in the event of some malfunction.
Kerr said they also hope to be operational in another city next year. “People love it and we want to do more of it,” he said.