In Athens, where there are an estimated 20,000 homeless people, two young men have turned a van into a mobile street laundrette.
The special van drives through the Greek capital city at night six days a week, with its two washing machines and two drying machines.
Thanos and Fanis started doing this four years ago with the aim of providing some relief for numerous Greeks and immigrants in the city who can’t afford to use a laundrette.
“When a homeless can wash his clothes and be clean, he automatically feels better. It makes it easier for him to do his daily routine,” Thanos explains.
Thanos and Fanis received a scholarship from the Angelopoulos Clinton Fellowship scholarship program and an amount of 10,000€. Along with three more volunteers and two sponsorships, they started “Ithaca Laundry” in autumn 2016. The project also benefits from the collaboration of the City of Athens.
The steps involved in ‘Ithaca Laundry’ are simple. First, the team and its volunteers are contacted by homeless people and go to certain “collection points” to pick up their clothes. Then they wash and dry them, which takes about 2 hours. The water supply is from nearby parks or from other parts of the municipality. The mobile launderette operates in specific, well-known areas in Athens.
The service is for people who don’t have access to clean water. So far, according to the BBC, the van has washed 1250 people’s clothes.
The project has also gained the collaboration of the people they are trying to help. Christos, supervisor of the washing process, used to bring his own clothes to the van when he lived on the streets. “Having clean clothes is a need, a necessity”, he says. “It means you belong to the society. If your clothes are dirty another person cannot come close to you, they cannot approach you. So the distance between you and other people starts to widen.”