In February of 2017 we had 34 new faces show up at our doors to begin living in our shelter at the Center for Women and Families. That’s 34 people who almost all do the same things when they get through our doors. They all sit with a staff member to go over paperwork, some might tell their story, but some can’t manage to do that quite yet. Generally, they have tons of questions they’ve been pouring over since they finally decided on the transition here. They likely talked to an advocate over the phone or sometimes in person before coming, but they thought of at least ten new questions in the first minute spent through that door. One thing is pretty much always the same, they’re hungry, they want a shower, and they are carrying two carry-on sized bags, if they’re lucky sometimes it’ll be three or maybe a few garbage bags full.
When our clients flee an abusive relationship it’s not usually planned and they don’t have time to pack and plan what they might need. Sometimes they might have ended up in the hospital from an injury and they come straight to our shelter with nothing other than the things they took with them to the Emergency Room. A lot of times they might have a police officer who responded to a call who brings them to our shelter. Then the client rushes to pack a bag for their stay with us. Occasionally, when a client has been calling the crisis line they have been planning to come here, but even then it is rare that a client can pack a bag and plan on what they will need during their stay. They are trying to hide the fact that they will run from their abuser, or else they will be stopped. Once they get a free hour or two they usually rush to pack all the things they think they might need, but of course things are missed when they are so stressed.
Once they are in our shelter program, they miss a lot of the luxuries they have at the house that is no longer safe because their abuser is looking for them there or might even live there. Our clients usually never go back to get the things they left behind and have a brand new start with us.
This is where our amazing community comes in. We have so many great Louisvillians who donate to us. We get bedding, winter clothes, shoes, backpacks, school supplies, toiletries, toys, books, kitchenware, and plenty of other things that have helped our clients start to feel like they have a home. When someone who has never worked or lived in a shelter decides to donate it’s usually things that we think of as every day needs. Speaking personally, toiletries were always the first thing I thought of. Then once I worked here I realized it’s the things we don’t think of. Hairdryers, night lights, socks, underwear, makeup, all the little things I’ve taken for granted.
One thing our community often forgets about is laundry pods. As mentioned earlier, our clients only come with a few bags full of belongings and that is including keepsakes and important documents along with the few pieces of clothes. If the client comes with children they probably will bring their children’s clothes, school work, toys, diapers, and other necessities, which leave parents for maybe one or two outfits for themselves. We often have to reach out over social media to ask for laundry pods and our community asks, “Why?” Well, the most important reason is what you might have guessed. Obviously, for laundry; for the clothes they have brought with them. When they have enough outfits for a few days laundry isn’t a luxury anymore. It’s a necessity for your own cleanliness and wellbeing.
At the Center we have washers and dryers that can be used for free. They are on the same floor as the rooms so there is no worrying about having to haul their clothes down steps, and even better clients aren’t having to risk their safety by going outside to a Laundromat. This is also great for clients because laundry can become very costly, especially if you’re doing small loads of the few outfits you have. Our clients generally have been abused emotionally, physically, and financially which really limits the amount of income or money that have. As our clients are going through our program they are saving the money they would have spent on laundry for the next bills coming up like daycare, groceries, and their next place to live.
Some people ask “Why pods?” Liquid is cheaper, powder smells better, there are tons of reasons we can choose a different type of detergent. The reason we don’t at the Center is because of our washers and dryers compatibility. These machines request pods for its usage and doesn’t work well with liquid or powder. Many of our clients have learned that after a laundry room full of bubbles emerges. But of course, another reason is because of how much easier it is to give a client a handful of pods. As of now we have 41 adult clients, half of them are parents so we are handing out pods more than 10 times a day (as I wrote this I gave out 7 pods to 3 different clients, it was much easier than distributing liquid).
This is a necessity that would cost very much out of the Center’s budget since we go through so many a day. In today’s work day we gave away 13 pods. An package of 80 pods is nearly 20 dollars. If we gave away 13 pods every day, we would need about 5 packages every month costing us 100 dollars a month and 1,200 a year. As a non-profit agency, this isn’t always an option although we would love for it to be.
As advocates, we love to be able to provide for our clients and help them with the small things that can become stressful. Giving a mom diapers, giving a child toys, letting a new client take a hot shower, giving them a warm bed, all of these things are empowering our clients to become survivors and giving them the strength to become independent. But of course we can’t do any of the work we do without the support from our caring community. The next time you get a freshly clean towel out of the warm dryer for your nightly shower, or get a whiff of your favorite sweater and the smell of the detergent it soaked in, think of our clients enjoying the same little joys.
The link to donate laundry pods to send is below, and as always we take donations from 9a-5p Monday-Friday at our Joan E. Thomas campus located at 927 South 2nd Street in Louisville, KY.
Written by Amanda Allen, Child Enrichment Coordinator