Salt Lake City’s East High School has found a way to make school more comfortable for their homeless students. What used to be a locker room for visiting sports teams is now a laundry room with a shower, lockers, sink and mirror.
Greg Maughan, the principal at East High, says its a way to provide basic comforts that students who struggle with homelessness might be going without.
Maughan says the idea for this laundry room came from his discussions with his students. One of those conversations came when he stopped a student in the hallway and asked why she was late to class.
“She had been couch surfing and struggling to find a place to stay each night," says Maughan.
As they talked, she shared that she also felt embarrased showing up to school without clean clothes.
Maughn asked, “If we had access to a washer and dryer for you is that something you would take advantage of?"
She said, yes. But only as long as no one else knew.
The idea was born for a discreet place for students to wash their clothes, have a shower and if needed, get a new pair of pants or a t-shirt which will be available in the lockers.
Of the nearly 2,000 students at East High, 60% come from economically disadvantaged households. Maughan isn’t sure just how many will take advantage of the new facility, but it’s available to all of them.
"The kids actually say there is a greater need than we even realize," Maughan says.
Mike Harman, the homeless education liaison for Salt Lake School District, says that schools have offered laundry and bathing services for a long time. But the genius of this facility is that it’s made specifically for students in need.
“A place where they're not going to be in the general locker room where kids are coming in. It is kind of secluded."
The hope is that this approach will appeal to students who previously might have been too timid to ask for help.