Happy Christmas to our wonderful friends, supporters, and all of you we have yet to meet. Every second Wednesday, the laundromat at the corner of Beach and Garfield in Huntington Beach turns into a party, with bags of food free for the taking, a haircut for those who need one, and a home cooked dinner served. We have music, do laundry, and share the fun with lots of guests. This month we were able to provide yet another service to the usual treats. For Christmas, we were able to provide each patron with a gift card to a discount store to help with their holiday purchases.
Running back and forth between guests and machines sometimes the night becomes a blur of familiar faces of many people I've come to know and love and new friends as well. This month, I was struck how guest after guest brought in bags of clothes that had been soaked by the recent rains and smelled of mildew. "There's no shelter at the park," explained one. Really, no shelter at all. In two short days, it was supposed to rain again.
As a teenager, I worked at a coffee shop in downtown Milwaukee, where many homeless and lonely people came to sit at our counter and have a hot cup of coffee. Meg never charged them. They were a different lot, one lanky black man would stand up in the middle of the restaurant, preaching the word of God, another lonely older woman, the pink lady we called her cause that's how she dressed, came in and ordered two dinners and chatted with her imaginary guest. An old Greek man, small and fail, would take my arm and, with a shaky hand point to me and say, "Blondie, you are my favorite girlfriend." He always made me smile with his mischievous ways and crinkle eyed smile. I learned later that he slept on the bus, which ran all night and took about an hour and a half to complete its route. No shelter in the park or in the city.
It's a little better here, even though right now it's growing cold, by Southern California standards. Tomorrow it's set to rain again. At home at night, when it starts to rain, I open my windows to listen and crawl back to bed, between my down comforter and flannel sheets. I have shelter. And I am grateful for that.
The nights at LaundryLove have grown longer. We are finding ourselves having to limit loads, something we didn't have to do for the first couple of years. People arrive earlier and earlier, assuming a place in line as early as 12:30 in the afternoon for a start time of 7 or so. Families, singles, women, men, the angry, the hopeless, and the grateful cue up and they get to do their laundry and we get to know love.