If you run a shelter for the homeless and house 50 or more people each night, you are going to have big piles of dirty laundry. That’s been the case for years at West Suburban PADS. But now three local hospitals are stepping up and taking over the work and the cost of laundering the sheets, pillow cases, hand towels and washcloths that PADS volunteers provide each night to their guests.

West Suburban Medical Center, Rush Oak Park Hospital and Westlake Hospital are donating the services under a new “laundry partnership” that will allow PADS to redirect some $23,000 annually to client services. 

In late 2014, PADS launched conversations about creating the partnership with the local hospitals, said Lynda Schueler, executive director of the agency which is best known for its overnight shelters but now provides an expanding array of services to provide housing stability to those in need.

The hospitals will cover the cost of having their vendors handle laundry once a week, for five of the nonprofit’s emergency shelters, four in Oak Park and one in Franklin Park. 

On Mondays during shelter season, Rush Oak Park will provide clean linens for the 57 beds housed at First United Church of Oak Park.  Likewise, churning away from its hospital location will be West Sub which has contracted its vendor to provide the linens for 141 homeless individuals on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays at emergency shelters housed at Oak Park Temple, Grace Episcopal Church, and United Methodist Church, respectively.

At the emergency shelter in Franklin Park, Westlake Hospital will provide clean linens for 23 people one night a week.

“The arrangement that we made, first with Rush, and the one that we are now using with West Sub and Westlake,” Schueler says “is that because the hospital laundry gets taken to a giant plant where other hospital laundry is also being done.  The hospitals have agreed to purchase and donate the linens we need, which are the flat and fitted sheets, the pillow cases, the hand and wash cloth towels for each site, and include them in their laundry services.  We have identified the volunteer to do this for First United, and we are working out the details for the rest of the nights.”

Bruce Elegant, president and CEO at Rush Oak Park, says he feels privileged to do this for the nonprofit.

“West Suburban PADS is an organization that has made a significant impact in the community,” said Elegant.  “It’s our continued mission to identify and meet our community’s needs by supporting such worthwhile and important organizations.”

Likewise, when West Suburban and Westlake Hospital’s CEO/President Patrick Maloney learned of PADS ongoing needs the hospital joined in. It began putting “the linens into rotation in our inventory, and after they use them at the homeless shelters, they will bring them back to us, and we will give them fresh linens, and the dirty ones will be cleaned through our laundry services,” says Michael Ditoro, the chief operating officer at Westlake Hospital.

“Last year 11 percent of those served in the emergency shelter had spent the previous night in a hospital setting,” Schueler said.  “We hope the forging of these partnerships with the area hospitals will lead to a dialogue about how to improve discharge planning and better coordinate care and services to mutual clients who require both treatment for illness as well as a permanent housing destination.”

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Deb Quantock McCarey

Deb Quantock McCarey is an Illinois Press Association (IPA) award-winning freelance writer who has worked with Wednesday Journal Inc. since 1995, writing features and special sections for all its publications....

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