It’s one of those things that many people take for granted. Dirty laundry? Just throw it in the wash.
Not so for people who are forced to sleep on the street or in shelters.
But in Turin, Italy, homeless people now have a couple of places where they can get their clothes cleaned – and get a shower for themselves. And the laundromats are named in honor of Pope Francis, who has taken a special interest in the plight of the homeless.
On Thursday, the Pope’s almoner – the bishop who carries out charitable works in his name – dedicated two new “Pope Francis Laundries” in the northern Italian city.
“When we help the poorest and most vulnerable, we are truly Christians, because we are the means of the Gospel,” the almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, said at a Mass attended by about 200 persons, mostly homeless. “This initiative … is a source of joy for me because this is a further possibility of being close to wounded humanity, a way to demonstrate the presence and closeness of God to the least.”
The laundromats are an initiative proposed by Procter & Gamble, which manufactures laundry detergents, and established thanks to the involvement of the Catholic lay Community of Sant’Egidio and the collaboration of Haier Europe.
Haier, whose headquarters are in China, provided washing machines and dryers, while P&G provided products such as Dash, Head & Shoulders, and Gillette razors.
They will be managed by the Community of Sant’Egidio and are a service offered free of charge to the poorest people, in particular those without a home, who will be able to wash their clothes and take a shower.
One of the laundromats is located in the Parish of San Giorgio Martire, while the other is in the “House of Friendship” at “La Sosta” in the historic center.
“Pope Francis Laundries” were opened in Rome in 2017 and in Genoa in 2019. Procter & Gamble and the Apostolic Charity in 2015 opened a barbershop for the poor under the Colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.
Francis, in his 2016 Apostolic Letter “Misericordia et misera,” writes, “Wanting to be close to Christ requires being close to our brothers, because nothing is more pleasing to the Father than a concrete sign of mercy. By its very nature, mercy becomes visible and tangible in a concrete and dynamic action.” Therefore “it is time to give space to the imagination of mercy to give life to many new works, the fruit of grace.”
But perhaps Daniela Sironi, president of the Community of Sant’Egidio Piemonte, put it best when she commented, “The scent of clean laundry is the scent of home, the scent of family, and it is a note of affection and warmth that we all need.”