A few years ago, Christy Moore, a social worker in the Phoenix area, moved into a new home with her husband. To their shock, their new place did not have a washer and dryer. As dirty clothes piled up, Christy desperately Googled laundromats near her.
Little did she know that this Google search would change her life.
When Christy stepped into a nearby laundromat, she was dismayed and disappointed by what she saw.
“It was super dirty and it was hot,” she described. “No one was talking to each other and I really saw this moment as a missed opportunity for laundromats to be calm community assets.”
She decided then and there to dedicate her life to the vision of a purpose-driven laundromat.
“That night, I came home and I told my husband, ‘I'm quitting my job and I'm going to open a laundromat that has some kind of social spin to it,’” Christy recalled.
Christy’s husband calmly replied that she should make that the name and open a chain, not just one location.
With that, Social Spin was born.
Social Spin, a laundromat with a mission to provide access to clean laundry as a basic human right, provides free and discounted laundry services to members of the community – both individuals and nonprofits such as homeless shelters – as well as access to restrooms, social and health services, food and showers. The laundromat employs a full-time “Placemaker” whose job it is to talk with customers about how Social Spin can optimize its spaces to meet community needs.
“The purpose of Social Spin is to leverage laundromats to be vibrant, social hubs,” Christy explained. “We connect customers with care and we measure our success through the sense of community.”
The purpose of Social Spin is to leverage laundromats to be vibrant, social hubs. We connect customers with care and we measure our success through the sense of community.
Social Spin supports its work through revenue, donations, public support and grant funding.
With art on the walls, shared resources, bright colors and music constantly playing, this social laundromat is thriving and expanding. In the five years since launching her dream project, Christy has opened a second location and is planning an expansion to a third location to include 90 affordable housing units and community kitchen and barber shop spaces.
To grow capacity and meet community needs, Christy has adopted an agile, collaborative and innovation-minded approach to social work.
Social Spin is working with autonomous driving technology company Waymo and the Phoenix nonprofit Native American Connections (NAC) to deliver fresh laundry to residents of NAC’s emergency housing program, called The Lodge, in central Phoenix.
“The Lodge has a washer and dryer but the case managers were doing the laundry during the evening shift for the residents and that's pretty burdensome for their team,” Christy said, adding that NAC wanted case managers to be able to focus on helping residents find permanent housing and employment.
Social Spin was willing to do the laundry, and Waymo is partnering to provide use of its autonomously driven vehicles to deliver the laundry. Waymo has worked with many nonprofits to make mobility safer and more delightful for all.
“We feel very honored to be this middleman between the two organizations,” says Whitney Steele, public affairs specialist for Waymo, thanking the two nonprofits for working with Waymo to set up tracking and logistics for the company’s first foray into laundry delivery. “There’s this trust component. They are sending everything they own in one fell swoop and that’s pretty impactful.”
Since March 2023, Waymo has transported more than 3,000 lbs of laundry between NAC and Social Spin in Phoenix.
“Working with [Waymo] has so far reduced the time NAC case managers have to spend on laundry by like a week and a half, which is substantial when you're talking about how that time could be spent and helping residents find permanent housing,” Christy explained.
Working with [Waymo] has so far reduced the time NAC case managers have to spend on laundry by like a week and a half, which is substantial when you're talking about how that time could be spent and helping residents find permanent housing.
Regular access to clean laundry boosts morale among residents, said Noelle Clough, project manager for NAC.
“For individuals experiencing homelessness, clean clothing gives them confidence and restores their dignity,” Noelle said, adding that laundry services help people keep their possessions, which they would otherwise be unable to clean and then discard.
People experiencing homelessness may have issues with trust – or letting go of their possessions – but NAC worked with Social Spin and Waymo to develop a tracking system for the laundry bags once it left the hands of residents. Ensuring residents' laundry is treated with care and returned was a top priority to the program's success.
“They feel more secure allowing their belongings to be temporarily out of their possession,” said Noelle.
Waymo’s fully autonomous technology is designed to carry out all driving tasks while following road rules and being constantly vigilant of other road users.
Melissa, a NAC laundry service recipient, said she often walks long distances in the Phoenix heat and needs to change and clean her clothes more often to maintain her hygiene.
“I would take my laundry to a laundromat when I could, but sometimes I had to wash things in the sink,” Melissa shared, adding that doing her own laundry took her four hours. “I like getting my laundry serviced and it will be one of the things I miss the most when I leave [The Lodge].”
Waymo picks laundry up from NAC every Wednesday and takes it back to Social Spin, washed, dried, folded, all within 24 hours.
Christy says trust is a fundamental aspect of her business.
“Trust is the biggest thing that we have to build with every new customer.”
Once trust is established, the foundation is laid for the work at the heart of the missions of NAC, Social Spin and Waymo: connecting people and communities.
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