The Washing Well
The Washing Well is a social enterprise that exists to provide safe, affordable laundry access.
We often don’t consider the toll doing laundry has on us each week, but for residents of Lower Price Hill, this hasn’t been the case. When the last laundromat in the area closed 10 years ago, inadequate or nonexistent access forced families to travel 2 miles to the nearest facility. Accessible only by bus or car, the 60% of residents who rely on public transportation spent 15-20 minutes one-way to reach laundry service. If a typical neighborhood family were to make this trip once a week, it would cost nearly 1/9 of their monthly income. Stories of hardship made it clear this vacancy was a public health crisis and access to safe, affordable, and local laundry was needed. In 2016, The Washing Well opened as a social enterprise to meet this need. Currently, the laundromat is incorporated within Community Matters, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and employs residents from the community. To date, it has helped over 1,500 families wash 82,000 loads of laundry.
The Washing Well saves residents from having to choose between doing their laundry in the bathtub or spending exorbitant amounts of time and money traveling to a faraway facility. It meets a basic human need with dignity, in a vibrant positive space with other neighbors creating community. With the unemployment rate at a staggering 66% in the area, it additionally meets a critical need for job creation. The long-term goal for the venture is to become self-sustaining, creating long-term jobs for residents and establishing community ownership. The $25,000 would support staff leadership training to start the process of transitioning ownership into a sustainable co-op model. These resident leaders have the opportunity to become first-time business owners and develop skills to empower an overall community voice. This enterprise will become the first of its kind in the neighborhood and will be a catalyst for reducing poverty and building a thriving, equitable community.
According to a 2016 study of 10 U.S. communities by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and The Knight Foundation, it was found that poverty could be reduced by 25% through the reduction of family expenses, targeted job creation, and smarter public and private investments. The Washing Well has already begun to see this lasting impact. Not only has it served a critical need providing access to clean laundry—the effects of which have been seen during the recent COVID-19 pandemic—but it also has helped reduce family expenses by nearly $1 million since opening. Additional job creation has subsequently increased household incomes. By continuing to invest in professional development and leadership training(s) for the employees and future-owners, this impact will only increase.