Laundry and Shower Renovation

New Laundry and Shower Facilities: A Matter of Dignity

Generous donors fund facilities expansion for homeless clients.


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, dirty and hungry.

Several years ago, the Bailey-Boushay team asked their homeless clients how they could help. For immediate relief, clients asked for more food throughout the day, for BBH to open earlier and for shower and laundry facilities.

With the enthusiastic support of donors, Bailey-Boushay responded to the need for food with a hot breakfast, a sack dinner and a food bank. Clients wanted BBH to open earlier in the morning, to escape the cold and better meet the shelters’ 6 a.m. closing times. The team responded by opening at 6:30 a.m. instead of 8:00 a.m.

Providing safe, efficient, reliable laundry and shower facilities proved harder, but that didn’t deter the team. “It was a matter of our clients’ health and dignity and our respect for them,” says BBH Director of Nursing Martha Purrier, RN, MN.

“We do everything we can to serve people with HIV, people who can't manage with HIV and people who are homeless with HIV,” says Brian Knowles, executive director. “These facilities are important to provide."

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. The regular sized machines couldn’t accommodate sleeping bags and other bulky items. 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. “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.

Though upgrades made the project costlier than expected, it also improves the building for the future. “Our Board of Directors has emphasized that our building is a great asset, it’s in a wonderful location with easy access to transportation for our clients. We could never duplicate it and it’s important to invest in it,” says Brian.

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

On Giving Tuesday, Virginia Mason asked the community and staff 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, hundreds of community members and Virginia Mason team members stepped up to make a gift.

"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. It's amazing! 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.”

What Our Clients Say About the New Facilities

"I just don't have access to a shower or laundry without Bailey-Boushay. I don't have anywhere else to go."

"I'm so pleased that the laundry is getting an upgrade because there has always been a line, there's a long wait, and there's no guarantee I'll get my laundry done. Waiting and not having access to the laundry and the shower can be a source of tension because so many people need it."

"It's much more comfortable to shower here than at the shelter, it's more private. In fact, being homeless, it's the only privacy I get."

"It's safer to do laundry at Bailey because at other places my things disappear — at least the few clothes I have are safe here. Also, Bailey is a place where I do my laundry and I can also grab my meds and visit with friends."

"Being able to be clean and wear clean clothes makes it easier to blend in with society, so I don't appear homeless. Thanks to who made it possible. May god bless them."