Impact Stories

Laundry upgrade offers essential hygiene

When we think of essentials for those who can’t afford them, we often think of food, water, shelter, basic healthcare, and security. But hygiene is essential, too.

You’ve just woken up to an important day – you’ve got a job interview in a couple hours.

So you have a shower, put on deodorant, and pick a clean, collared shirt out of your closet. You want to look your best: professional, passionate but serious, and ready to get the job done.

But you didn’t wake up in a bed this morning. You woke up in your car. You haven’t showered in a couple days because you have no shower. You have no bed. You have no home.

Your clothes are in a duffel bag in the back seat. None of them are clean because you have no washer and dryer.

If you can only get this job you might have all of these things.

When we think of essentials for those who can’t afford them, we often think of food, water, shelter, basic healthcare, and security. But hygiene is essential, too.

They know that at Warmland House Shelter in Duncan, where support from United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island through the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy is making a laundry and hygiene upgrade possible.

With shelter beds and transitional housing, the facility also offers use of the laundry and shower facilities to those who don’t reside there.

“They come in and they may have been out all night or they may not have been able to have a shower for a couple days,” says Sean Redmond, manager of housing at the Canadian Mental Health Association of the Cowichan Valley, which runs Warmland. “They are able to come into our facility, they get all cleaned up, we give them what they need, soap, shampoos, deodorant, things like that. And a lot of them time they just come out with a big smile on their face,” he says.

“They are feeling human again. They are feeling at their best. It’s nice to be able to provide that option to individuals. It is at a reduced rate because of COVID, but we are providing that service every day right now.”

The upgrade to Warmland’s facilities will allow for larger, commercial washers and dryers to be purchased and installed, which will offer a greater level of cleaning, and a larger capacity.

“Often, some of the blankets that some people have, they are just too big for the smaller machines, so they are not really actually cleaning them very well. So by putting them in commercial machines that are sanitizing … you are able to help them with that as well.”

Already installed as part of this project is a handwashing station at the front entrance, all of which is touchless, says Sean. This is not only providing extra pandemic safety for clients, but for staff as well.

“Prior to that station coming in … clients would have to go to the kitchen or the dining area of our facility, which added extra cleaning,” he says.

It’s these and other hygiene-related services that help folks without a home to not only stay healthy, but to regain dignity and to participate in their community.

“We just had an individual who has been living in his car and he’s been applying for jobs. And if he’s not able to have a shower and get cleaned up in the morning to go and apply for that job, he isn’t feeling at his best.”

At United Way CNVI, we see how important hygiene is to the dignity, resilience and health of our unhoused neighbours. With help from our donors, we support projects like this in communities from the Malahat to Port Hardy. But we can’t do it without your help. Please, if you can, donated to United Way CNVI today. If you need help, please call 2-1-1, and a bc211 Navigator will direct you to supports near you.