CHA to Buy Back Laundry Tokens

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In early December, I participated in the celebration of the installment of the late Major Robert Lawrence Jr. (a cousin) into the Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, Fla.

When I returned Dec. 8, I had a bag full of happy memories and dirty, sandy clothes. I needed to wash. But when I went into the laundry room one floor below my apartment, I saw some brand new machines. I was happy to see the new machines. Many tenants had long been disgusted with the old machines because they were in terrible condition when they worked at all.

But then I noticed a sign which said “insert card here.” I didn’t have a card; I and everyone in the building had been using tokens in the old machines. With no card, I had to drag my dirty laundry back to my apartment.

I started to investigate. I called Shirley Hammond, the president of the Senior North Local Advisory Council, and was told by her secretary to call back the following week. Approximately one week later, I made it to Hammond’s office and paid $7.50 ($6 for the machines and $1.50 deposit) for the new card which I could use to access the new washers and dryers. I was told that the laundry service would come every other week to Flannery to add money to the cards.

I must say that the situation was a little confusing. I was also worried about what I would do with the left-over tokens that I still had. After talking over this situation with the other residents who work on RJ, I found out that there were problems with the laundry machines in every CHA senior development. Many residents were especially mad about the left-over tokens. The tokens were purchased through CHA Management through a rent deduction of $5 per pack. Many residents told me they felt ripped off because the tokens were useless and no provisions had been made to reimburse the tenants.

On Jan. 5, I contacted Angela Ryan from CHA’s Public Affairs Department regarding the laundry tokens. Ryan assured me that CHA would provide refunds for unused tokens. The refunds will be handled through the building management office and credit for the returned tokens will be credited back to the tenant’s account.

The laundry service situation is still not quite resolved for all CHA seniors, though. Ron Carter, CHA’s director of economic development, said the problems were caused by an effort to let resident-owned businesses take over the laundry service. Carter said that laundry machines are set up in 93 CHA senior citizen buildings.

Late last year, 21 different residents won a competition to take over the laundry service. The resident business owners partnered with one of two firms – Macke Laundry Service or Mac-Gray Laundry Service. These contractors both supply Ratheon Speed Queen commercial washers and dryers.

In Flannery on Dec. 8, the day I came back from my trip, the resident business owners started moving out the old equipment and installing the new machines. But in some other developments, Carter said that the old machines were moved out but new machines were not allowed in. In other developments, the managers did not allow the old machines to be pulled out. Carter said this situation was caused by problems with finalizing the leases for the new laundry services. In some places where there was no laundry service, the CHA Senior Programs staff used buses to take seniors to laundromats.

At press time, Carter said every CHA senior development except for one now has laundry machines they can use. In some developments, residents are using the old machines with old tokens and in others, they are using the new machines with the new cards. This is a problem because the old machines needed a quarter for a wash or a dry but the new machines require 75 cents. Carter said all machines will eventually charge 75 cents for either a wash or a dry. “That’s the market value,” he said.

Carter said the new laundry service will generate 300 jobs for public housing residents. Residents employed by the resident laundry services will work as attendants, maintenance workers and business operators.

“Sometimes when you try to do good, there are glitches,” Carter said.

“But when it all comes out in the wash, residents will get new equipment, cleaner, better laundry and people will get jobs.”

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