Donna Asif knows that homeless people have an especially tough time keeping clean.
"Imagine yourself without those opportunities. It's part of your self-image, self-love," says Asif, an advocate for homeless individuals. Homeless people who are able to bathe and wash their clothes regularly "are more likely to seek company. There's also the health component, those nasty rashes and the smells that make you feel ashamed. You can go now for job interviews and maybe reconnect with people who knew you before you were unwashed."
The emergency shelter run by Porchlight at the Grace Episcopal Church has showers, but they're not private. And the laundry machines there are in constant demand.
In 2007, Asif started a shower program at First United Methodist Church downtown. Two days a week, homeless people can use one of two private bathrooms at the church, with access to razors, nail clippers, shampoo, combs and clean underwear and socks. She recently started "Project Bubbles" to help the homeless get their laundry done.
The program provides bus fare to and from Laundry Land, 1131 N. Sherman Ave., where the staff will help homeless people do their laundry. Detergent, drier sheets and coins for the machines are included.
"We're still in the pilot stage, but it's really running well," Asif says. "People can do their wash even once a week. But the need is greater and the word isn't getting out."
Coupons for the program can be picked up at First United Methodist's food pantry or during the shower hours, from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays and Fridays.