The Laundry Truck LA provides free laundry services to the homeless

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Local mobile laundromat has done thousands of loads of laundry for those experiencing homelessness.

By Marcos Franco, Staff Writer

The Laundry Truck LA staff member, Andre Ribiero, prepares another load of garments dropped off by residents from the Bassett Park gymnasium temporary shelter in La Puente, California. (Photo by Solomon Smith/The Valley Star)

In a time where personal hygiene is emphasized more than ever, The Laundry Truck LA (TLTLA) offers a life-changing public service by providing free mobile laundromats to unhoused individuals in Los Angeles.

In 2018, Jodie Dolan embarked on a journey to help those in need through hygienic services, and after a year of collecting donations, The Laundry Truck was born. At first glance, the big, baby blue four-wheeler appears to be nothing more than another Los Angeles-staple food truck, but there is more to it than just fresh linen. It began with five sets of washing and drying machines in one 16-foot trailer and TLTLA offering their services two times a week to the Los Angeles community. Their business has since expanded operations to seven days a week. This was made possible through the support of sponsors such as SoCalGas, Clorox and Maytag Appliances.

“The connection between clothing and laundry is about dignity and self worth,” said Dolan, founder of DOLAN clothing and TLTLA. “It’s about trying to lift people up and helping them to not feel invisible.”

Los Angeles County currently holds the second highest population of people experiencing homelessness in the country behind New York City. Of the 10.04 million residents, it is calculated that roughly 59,000 of individuals are homeless. This number has increased 12 percent since 2018 and is steadily rising. Although there is not a single set reason for the amount of homlessness in Los Angeles, the county ranks sixth on the list of top 10 highest rent averages in the nation. Combined with a 22 percent poverty level, the issue seems more understandable.

According to Homeless Link, unhoused individuals are at significantly higher risk of long-term physical and mental health issues as well as drug abuse. Not only can homlessness bring illness, but it is also detrimental to a person’s self-esteem. Although TLTLA may not directly resolve homlessness, it does improve daily life for individuals. Proper hygiene can increase self-confidence and bring better life opportunities, such as employment.

By the end of 2020, the TLTLA team expects to do between 8,000 to 9,000 loads of laundry, over twice the amount done in 2019. The Laundry Truck operates primarily in City Council District 1 with six different locations available, each with their own hours of operation. Not only are clean clothes a fundamental component of healthy hygiene, but they also serve as a token of hope during unprecedented times.

“The importance of having hygienic services available to people that are unhoused is extremely critical,” said Gil Cedillo, the city councilmember of District 1. “Not only to increase their public welfare, but also to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.”

Although this service is off to a successful start, the non-profit still requires just over $4000 per month at each location to maintain. TLTA has partnered with Amazon Smile in order to maximize donations to continue providing hygienic services. When shoppers select “The Laundry Truck LA” as their designated charity, Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of their purchase total at no additional cost to the user.

Through clean clothing, TLTLA aims to restore dignity and hope to homeless communities and has successfully done so for almost two years. Readily accessible personal care services such as free laundry can positively impact the everyday lives of unhoused individuals during challenging times. The Laundry Truck team has not only brought awareness to the issue in our local communities, but has also worked to wash away the stigma surrounding the subject.

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