Denver nonprofit helps homeless by washing their clothes

Harris drives a 200-square-foot Laundry Truck around the city three times a week and takes in homeless residents' dirty laundry at stops along the route.

Mae Owen | Jun 27, 2017

Of all the stereotypes most Americans associate with homeless people, being dirty and smelling foul are probably the most widespread. A formerly homeless Denver man is working to change this, however, with a mobile laundry service that washes, dries, and folds homeless Denver residents' clothes for free.

Harris drives a 200-square-foot Laundry Truck around the city three times a week and takes in homeless residents' dirty laundry at stops along the route. A dozen washers and dryers inside the truck launder their clothes on the spot.

Harris said that he now averages 300 pounds of laundry every outing. And it's not just about clean clothes: He told the Los Angeles Times that cleaner clothes could improve the recipients' health and raise their chances of getting hired.

"Walking around in dirty clothes only furthers your feelings of being an outcast," said Harris. "This is about basic human dignity."

The truck was an old document-shredding truck until the Denver nonprofit Bayaud Enterprises acquired it and repurposed it for homeless laundry services. Harris works for Bayaud now as laundry truck and outreach coordinator, but he was once a felon and drug addict who lived homeless in several cities for years before getting clean and reintegrating into society. He recalls taking clean clothes from stores whenever the clothes he was wearing got so soiled and filthy that even he could not stand his own smell.

The laundry service is one of many new programs that Denver has rolled out for the homeless. The city also provides sidewalk storage lockers, a mobile restroom program, and a special court that clears warrants from its office inside a rescue mission.

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