New Laundry and Shower Facilities: A Matter of Dignity

About 170 clients of Bailey-Boushay House (BBH) are homeless. Many don't use shelters because they don't feel safe. They sleep outside or wander the streets at night, waiting for BBH to open. They get cold, wet and dirty. 

Seeing the need for safe, efficient, reliable laundry and shower facilities, the BBH team leapt into action. “It was a matter of our clients’ health and dignity and our respect for them,” says Martha Purrier, RN, MN, BBH director of nursing.

A BBH client struggles to describe what it’s like being homeless and sleeping outside. “To take a warm shower and put on dry clothes, it makes me feel human again,” he says.

Before the upgrade, BBH offered one washer and dryer and only one shower. Breakdowns were frequent, as were long lines to do wash. “Clients shouldn’t have to wait and worry about getting their laundry done,” says Brian Knowles, executive director. “We refitted our existing space for two sets of commercial washers and dryers and two showers. Because of this upgrade, we also had to come up to code on our air conditioning and heating systems.”

Another challenge was funding the new facilities. Donors stepped forward to support BBH, including Virginia Mason Foundation board member Jay Green and his spouse Pam, and Virginia Mason board member Lonnie Edelheit and his spouse Susan.

On Giving Tuesday last November, Virginia Mason asked the community and team members to give to the project. Virginia Mason president Sue Anderson made a generous matching gift, with a challenge to staff to support the new facilities. Within a couple of days, 144 team members made a gift along with 32 community donors.

“Virginia Mason staff is so supportive of us and very connected to our work,” says Martha. “Every person in health care wants to make a difference in someone’s life. Here we have a profound opportunity to do so and they want to be a part of this work. We are the quality leader in HIV care because we continually identify new ways to help our clients stay healthy. We take care of them with the help of our generous donors and the community.” 

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