Fort Collins mobile laundry helps working families and the homelesss



Mobile Laundry Launches in Fort Collins Fort Collins Coloradoan

A mobile laundry service geared toward working families and the “hidden” homeless has officially rolled into Fort Collins.

The all-volunteer program sponsored by Homeward Alliance consists of a retrofitted U-Haul box truck with six washers and seven dryers. Families drop off loads of laundry in the morning and pick them up washed and folded by the afternoon.

On Tuesday, the truck hummed and gently rocked as the machines went through their cycles behind Fullana Learning Center, 220 N. Grant St. in Fort Collins. A line of mesh bags filled with little socks and shirts went down the length of the truck’s loading ramp and beyond.

Volunteers greeted mothers and fathers dropping off their kids’ laundry as Woody Carlson, co-founder of the service, busily moved loads from washers to dryers. He used paper tags to keep track of whose clothes were in which machine.

“I’m not a detail guy, so I really have to pay attention when I’m doing this,” Carlson said with a laugh. “I’m more of a big-picture kind of guy.”

Carlson, a retired Lutheran minister, came up with the Mobile Laundry idea after learning about a similar program in Denver. It made sense, he said, knowing from his years of ministry that working families can struggle to find the time and the money to get their clothes washed.

After raising about $100,000 to buy and outfit a vehicle, the program started in November with weekly stops at two Loveland locations.

But then a challenge came up: Bitter cold temperatures at night caused water lines in the truck to freeze. Getting the lines thawed took time and slowed the process.

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One particularly cold day, Carlson took the dropped-off laundry to a laundromat. Washing and drying it all cost about $100 — and drove home the importance of providing access to laundry to those in need.

“If you have a family with a bunch of kids, and the parents … are working two or three jobs, they don’t have a lot of resources, and it’s tough to balance everything,” he said.

After learning about the freeze-up problem from a Coloradoan story in December, Houska Automotive in Fort Collins offered to house the Mobile Laundry on cold nights.

The laundry can handle up to about 40 loads a day. The work begins early in the morning as volunteers arrive and set up tables for receiving and folding laundry.

A hose is run from an outdoor tap to the truck, which provides power for the washers and dryers. Two 300-gallon tanks collect grey water from the washers. At the end of the day, the wastewater is taken to an RV dump station for proper disposal.


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In Fort Collins, qualified families may receive vouchers to participate in the program through Poudre School District. Mobile Laundry sets up at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 2000 S. Lemay Ave., on Mondays and at Fullana on Tuesdays.

Jessi, a Front Range Community College student and the mother of two, visited the Fullana drop-off site for the first time Tuesday. Her son is in preschool at Putnam Elementary.

Jessi, who declined to give her last name, said the program would help her “very much” as she balances life and school responsibilities.

“As a full-time student, I’m not working right now and the place we’re staying has no in-house laundry,” she said. “The last time I took everything to a commercial laundry it cost $40. I don’t have the money to do that.”

The Fullana site serves families from Putnam and Irish elementary schools. The Our Savior’s site serves schools on the south side of Fort Collins.

In Loveland, where vouchers are not needed, the Mobile Laundry stops once a week at the Loveland Public Library, 300 N. Adams Ave., and Monroe Elementary School, 1500 Monroe Ave.

Carlson said he expects demand for the program will grow over time once word of it gets around. Perhaps, in time, the program will expand and another truck will be needed.

Combined, Thompson and Poudre school districts serve an estimated 1,700 students who are homeless.

“It’s going to take time to build connections with families,” he said.

Kevin Duggan is a senior Coloradoan reporter and columnist.

How to help

Donations to the Mobile Laundry program be made online at

Checks may be mailed to: Homeward Alliance Mobile Laundry, P.O. Box 873, Fort Collins, CO 80522

Information: Email or call 970-460-6451.

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