Laundromat on wheels takes hope to the homeless one load at a time
MUKILTEO, Wash. -- The bright green box truck stands like a neon beacon parked in front of the Mukilteo lighthouse.
Emblazoned on the side of the truck are all the words anybody needs to understand what this vehicle is all about. "Washed: a mobile laundry for the homeless."
"This just seemed like a need that wasn't getting met, so we just jumped and said that's it, let's do it," explained businessman Eric Hogan, who along with dear friend, Pastor DJ Rabe, launched Washed Mobile earlier this month.
The free service transports laundry facilities to the homeless, where those in need can wait while a crew does their laundry.
At this point, the crew consists of Hogan and Pastor Rabe.
"The demand is great, much greater than we anticipated," said Rabe. "In my years of outreach to the homeless community I discovered that the most urgent need isn't food. It's clean clothes. And we can make a difference with this."
Rabe says he constantly hears stories of homeless people who schedule job interviews, but cancel because they cannot clean their clothes.
On Tuesday the truck was parked in Mukilteo to allow KOMONews a tour.
Inside the 16-foot used vehicle are two washers and two driers, powered by two large diesel generators. There are two 275-gallon water tanks, one containing fresh water and one to collect the used water.
A propane heating system provides what's needed for hot water cycles. An expert donated his time to outfit the mobile laundry truck, and the interior is spotless with an impressive electrical system.
The men have taken Washed Mobile out twice and are dialing up a system to efficiently help as many people as possible. In two five-hour outings, they washed clothes for a total of about 40 homeless men, women and children.
Pastor Rabe, founder of The House Church in the town of Snohomish, says the service includes lending sweat pants and t-shirts to clients while they wait for their loads to finish. Changing tents are provided for privacy.
A load can take an hour and twenty minutes, which Rabe and Hogan point out, leaves time for talking.
"It's really not about cleaning clothes. It's about having those conversations," said Rabe, who explains that he and Hogan do not push prayer or talking about God, though they hope that's where the interactions lead.
The immediate goal is simply asking each person about his or her situation, how they're coping and what they need.
"Once we have that conversation we can help connect them to other community resources and get them out of the streets rather than helping them simply be more comfortable living on the street."
Some of those who have used the service have stayed in touch with the men by phone and are asking for additional help.
"It's led to some deeper connections," said Hogan. "So will it impact lives? Absolutely. That's why we're doing it."
Setting up the vehicle cost about $30,000. Monthly expenses to operate the service is estimated between $2,000 and $2,500. Sponsors and donations are welcome.[Notes:Web]
The goal is to recruit a team of volunteers so Washed Mobile can be on the streets most days of the week. Rabe and Hogan have a plan to increase the number of trucks and design a shower trailer as well.
Those who might be willing to volunteer or help in other ways can visit the website.