CLEVELAND, Ohio — We've all taken steps to stay safe during this pandemic, but avoiding the coronavirus goes well beyond masks, social distancing, and hand washing. New findings out of the U.K. show the virus can remain infectious on our clothing for up to three days — an additional risk for those in our community without access to a washer and dryer.
That’s the case for many who call Cleveland's Woodhill neighborhood home. Keeping clean clothes on their backs is a real challenge.
"Only 17% of residents said they had access to laundry services," said Morgan Bulger.
The nearest facility with washers and dryers is 3 miles away.
"Having access to laundry is huge,” said Bulger.
Bulger is a founding member of the Woodhill Community Co-op.
"I just got to know the people here and feel very invested in this community, it's really that simple,” said Bulger.
The organization's goal is to build a laundromat in the neighborhood that residents can regularly access.
"Anything where you want to look nice and put together, not having access to laundry and being able to clean your clothes is a huge barrier to that,” said Bulger.
This neighborhood, already disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, is continually in need PPE.
"Most of the time when we think about that we're not thinking about laundry detergent,” said Ashley Evans, Woodhill Community Co-op.
As they work to secure the funding they need, the Woodhill Community Co-op is holding pop-up events to distribute hundreds of bottles of laundry detergent as well as PPE.
"We ran out within the first 30 minutes. We had masks, cleaning products, things like that,” said Bulger.
For co-op member Ashley Evans, she saw the impact of this disparity in the classroom when one of her middle school students was continually absent.
Evans said he skipped school because he was embarrassed wearing dirty clothes.
"That was not what I was thinking that this student was going to say to me at all,” said Evans.
Right now, The Woodhill Community Co-op is looking to grow in its push to secure $2 million for its community-owned laundromat.
Bulger said they're "getting people more involved than just interest, and getting them to buy in and wanting to become a member of the organization and what we're trying to build."
If you are interested in helping the Woodhill Community Co-op get its project off the ground, you can check out its fundraiser here.
This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.