What Laundromat is Willing to Serve Homeless People

Posted May 16th, 2017 @ 11:14 AM by

Long story short, on May 5th the Bubbles Laundry Project got locked out of 701 E Johnson St. We switched to 306 S. Brearly and today . . . we got locked out of there too. Setting aside the illegal discrimination against people based on homelessness as a protected class, where can we do laundry Friday 9 – 1 where homeless people can easily get to and where we won’t get locked out??

FIRST LOCK OUT (701 E Johnson)
I’m piecing things together so here’s what I can find:

April 19th:

Last Friday I called the city permitting dept. to complain about the locked bathroom door at the laundromat. The door was locked each of the last 3 Fridays (and I expect all days in-between as well). The city was going to send an inspector. Do you know if the door was unlocked yesterday?
Thank you Scott

April 24th:

On Friday I again left messages with the city re the locked bathroom door at the laundromat. The inspector called me this morning and said he would be getting hold of the owner to let him know that he needs to have the bathroom accessible. Can you check with whomever volunteers at Bubbles tomorrow to see if the door is open and let me know either way? Thank you, Scott

April 25th:

The bathroom was open today but no toilet paper or paper towels. I grabbed some baby wipes I had in my car.
Take care,

May 2nd:

. . . Second, the state of the laundromat is really pretty bad now. I counted 16 (that’s not a typo – actually 16) dryers out of order today, and 7 washers out of order. Additionally, while there were soap and paper towels, and the bathroom was unlocked, there was no toilet paper to be found. This was especially frustrating for Bubbles folks who came with kids. I know the laundromat owner is trying to push us out – that’s no secret – but this is just shameful disrepair. . . Whitney

May 3rd:

Thanks for your message Donna. What the city building inspection dept. told me is that the laundromat is required to have an open, functioning restroom. After contacting the inspector (and after Julie from the Carribeau called the laundromat manager), the restroom door was open a week ago yesterday but no toilet paper was available. A message was left for the inspector and last Friday the restroom was open and there was toilet paper. No paper towels. I’d brought toilet paper and paper towels with me last Friday and will do the same again this Friday; I’ll also leave some at the TRC.

The city said that there is no regulation requiring a commercial laundromat owner to have washers/driers in working order. The financial incentive to have functioning equipment is thought to be sufficient.

May 4th:

Update: Eugene sold the business in March but still owns that side of the building. It was sold to a national enterprise headquartered in California with local management out of Brookfield WI. I placed a call to them and expect a callback tomorrow. So, stay tuned!

Thanks for the information and the supplies, Scott – and for the additional details, Whitney! Are there any new signs now in the laundromat that give contact information for management?

I’d be interested in hearing if the conditions have improved for Friday’s session, if possible.

You really are a super great team!

May 5th:

Hi all, got to the laundromat this morning and the doors are locked. I don’t mean the bathroom doors either, I mean the doors to the building. Give me a call if you have any ideas. Scott

May 6th:

It’s Saturday and the laundromat on E. Johnson is totally locked with no sign saying why. I’ll check again tomorrow. I’ve got calls in to Everett the contact, as well as to the head office. Spoke to a weekend/after hours person who says someone will call from main office on Monday. Meanwhile I’m working on a Plan B for the continuation of Project Bubbles and desperately need your input. – Donna

May 8th:

After repeated unsuccessful efforts with the new company running the E. Johnson laundry location, Project Bubbles will be operating during usual hours at the Parktowne East Laundomat at 306 S. Brearly, corner of Williamson Street. The Hospitality House van will accommodate this change and they will inform the Salvation Army of the change and a new pickup arrangement. I’ll send out notification of this change to the HSC and others. I’ve put a call through to the Parktowne management to give a heads up about need for plenty of change money in the machines and quantities of toilet paper/paper towels.

Tomorrow morning I will put signs up again, but as the ones already placed were removed by management I’m not too confident that the new ones will have a better destiny.

SECOND LOCK OUT (306 S Brearly)
May 9th:

I think it went well this morning. The place is much cleaner and the machines all work. Even the coin dispensers are better. There seem to be less washers but they are more efficient and the dryers actually get hot. The bathroom was open and there was hand soap 🙂 I feel that the new place will definitely save money. The machines are cheaper and did not have to extend dryer times AT ALL and no one had to rewash clothes because of a broken machine.

The feedback I received was mixed. People like the new place a lot better because of the same reasons listed above but even with that the main thing is location. This place is out of the way because it is further from the Capitol and the shelters. It didn’t look like many people took the Porchlight van there. I will make sure the family and women’s shelters are notified of the change and can take the van there. – Carly

Tomorrow I’ll check in about the van. I know that Bill the usual operator was not working today but Stan was. Bill said on Monday that he would be contacting the Salvation Army about a new pick up arrangement there, on route to Bubbles’. The van reliability and people making use of it will be key if this location is going to work.

At some point I’m expecting a call from the management of the East Johnson laundry when they are fully up and running. If that happens as they’ve promised, we can reconsider our options at that time. Donna

May 14th (regarding May 12th)

Hi Donna,

Everything went fine except for a run-in with the owner. I stopped back in at around 12:15PM and the owner was there cleaning up. When I introduced myself, he jumped right in and made it clear that he did not appreciate Bubbles use of his laundromat. The main concern he expressed was that his “regular” customers would not be able to gain use of the machines during Bubbles hours and he would lose these people as customers. It was rather ironic that, as he said this, there were only 1-2 people in the entire building doing laundry. However, he said that he’d stopped in on Tuesday during Bubbles hours and there was people sitting on the floor and no open machines. The guy got rather agitated very quickly and asked why we don’t move to a larger laundromat (he suggested the one on E. Johnson).

While this guy was upset, I don’t think he will do anything to block Bubbles access. There was no toilet paper to start the day but I’d brought some so no problem. The owner filled the toilet paper when he was there. The number of machines is less than at the previous location so at the start of the day there were some people waiting for washers and then driers. However, this was not a big deal and by 10 or so washing machines started to open up and driers by 10:30.

Ok, sorry that this isn’t better news but at least we have a place with unlocked doors. Scott

Scott, thanks so much for your message and for so much more! It’s great that you got to meet the manager (who has yet to return my call), even though his attitude could be better. Unfortunately that response doesn’t surprise us. Correct? Old story that. But meanwhile we are not going to move elsewhere and I think that once he starts to count his newly sourced money he will adjust with less complaint. Especially in this summer season when there are likely less student clients, I think he might come to realize his good fortune.

Meanwhile as always, we will be respectful customers. I’ve given him my contact info and will continue to make attempts to connect. Whenever possible bring toilet paper rolls each shift. Please try to continue to share shift updates with the team. It is very helpful.

With endless gratitude, Donna

And then there was this also about Friday . . . from Lauren who volunteered that day . . .

You know what really upsets me, is that not only Madison, Willy st, in particular, claims that it is so progressive, but then treats certain people (particularly those who are people of color, homeless or low income) with less respect and kindness. I had a dispute with the owner of the laundromat off Willy street. We provide quarters and soap for people who are homeless and low-income people in a program called Bubbles. This man was so rude to me and made some pretty ridiculous arguments. His argument was that by having this program at his business is “putting him out of business” by pushing customers away. He angrily asked why we had to come here. Basically “these” people don’t fit his desired clientele. I didn’t know there was a special club. I told him this is discrimination to pick and choose who you want your paying customers to be. He started swearing at me and saying things that did not make sense.

My biggest issues

-We are paying customers so why does he not consider us customers, and why are we not treated with the same respect?
-That we are somehow hurting his business, yet bringing more revenue? How does this make sense?
-Why do we have to fight for the same rights and decency to use facilities that are paid for just the same as anyone else?

This is so disheartening that it is normalized to treat other people that are already suffering, feel less worthy. People and businesses should be held accountable for this discriminatory behavior. #progressivemadison

And this morning . . .

Looking for ideas . . . before Friday a 9am. I’m half expecting every laundromat in the Isthmus area to lock their doors Friday morning.

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