Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Doing your laundry for free at the Meeting Place

There are several places downtown to do your laundry. The Corner Drop-In on Augusta near College, EHM at Adelaide near Bathurst, and CONC on Bloor near Ossington all offer laundry services. But the Corner Drop-In does theirs super early in the morning, EHM makes you sign up and then wait way too long, and CONC requires you to sign up days or weeks in advance. Only the Meeting Place at Bathurst and Queen offers convenient drop-in laundry, and nobody else offers more availability each week.

At the moment, the laundry facilities are out of service due to renovations. According to staff it could be done anytime between "tomorrow" and "three weeks from now." But usually it's pretty solid. And these days, in the winter, they're open every single day of the week. They do just randomly close every once in awhile, and if you're not going there frequently there's no way to know in advance, so you have to be prepared to show up with your laundry to a "sorry we're closed today" sign, or just somebody behind their closed gate yelling "closed today come back tomorrow." So on your way to the Meeting Place, as with many service locations, you have to prepare yourself for the disappointment.

There's three washers and four dryers. They're all in good shape, and they all get fixed pretty promptly when they break. The washers are modern side-loaders. That's good because they get your clothes nice and clean, and they lock while washing your clothes, so you can leave for a half hour without risking theft of your clothes. But it also means that if you make a mistake while loading your laundry, you're screwed. You can't hit stop and change something. If the load gets unbalanced, it'll just slow way down until it gets balanced enough to continue, and you can't open it up to fix the problem, so when this happens, your load could take an hour to wash instead of half.

After putting your stuff in the dryer, unless it's worthless to you, you basically have to stay in the room and guard it. That's the worst part. The laundry room can be a freaky and dangerous place. If somebody leaves their laundry unguarded, and then finds something missing when they came back, it's a great excuse to start a fight. Many of the visitors to the Meeting Place are looking for excuses to start fights. People will ask you to watch their laundry for them. It's a trap. If you're the only person in the laundry room, and someone who seems aggressive has left you alone with their stuff, hang out in the hallway outside. You can watch your stuff through the windows, and other people can see you as they go to and from the bathrooms and stuff.

The laundry room is also a classic spot to get trapped by someone who wants to talk your ear off. Grab a newspaper from upstairs, tell them you don't feel like talking or listening, you're too tired or something, you just want to read, and just read. Don't try to participate in conversations with a pathological lecturer. It's a neurological condition. It's not a personality trait. It's common in the poor community because employers will take any excuse they can to get an overtalker out of the workplace. There are certain places that are like funnels for people with this problem, and the laundry room is one of them, because you are physically trapped there with them. Try to interrupt them to say something, and they might put some nasty words in your mouth, and that's a great way to start a fight, and a very common way that fights in these types of places are started. So watch yourself. Now we'll get back to the practicalities:

To access the laundry service, you have to sign up on the laundry list, after signing in on the main list. The laundry list is numbered, so people get access to machines according to the order in which they signed up. Because there are three washing machines, if you're one of the first three people on the list, you can immediately start your laundry. If you're 4th, 5th or 6th, you have to wait about a half hour, and so on.

The place opens at 11:30, so depending on the demand, if you show up at that time you'll either be in the first or second round of laundry, so you should be able to be finished up and out of the place by 1pm or 1:30. If it's not a super busy laundry day, if you show up between 2pm and 2:30pm, you'll likely be able to start your laundry immediately. The last load goes in at 2:30pm, apparently. Show up too late, and you run the risk of being bumped to another day. Show up too early, and you may have to wait. Show up at 11:15 and physically keep your place in line outside the door 'till it opens, and you get a stressful opportunity to get out of there as early in the day as possible, with clean clothes.

Since the Meeting Place also offers shower services that work in exactly the same way, it's convenient to wash all your clothes, including the ones you're wearing, and even your backpack and shoes, while also taking a shower. So if you're out on the street with dirty everything, you don't have to walk away with one set of dirty clothes in order to take a shower, because they have housecoats and towels that you can use for showering and laundry.

They also offer a kitchen, phone, internet, personal storage in lockers, coffee, cheap food, and a smattering of self-help programs and support groups. This is one of the few places where you can actually make a phone call, leave your name and the Meeting Place phone number, and get a call back and have the staff find you with the call. So it's a good place to get a bunch of stuff done at the same time - some government-related phone calls, some personal care, some daily necessities type stuff, and probably run into someone you know as well. It's not called The Meeting Place for nothing.

Unfortunately, it also has a telling nickname: The Beating Place. It's an environment where violence hangs in the air like the smell of mould, and depending on the nature of your interactions with the other people there, it can be a very safe or very dangerous place. It's one of the most-avoided destinations, as well as one of the most popular ones. It's part of a cluster of services for poor and homeless residents in the area, and as much a wildcard on the scene as it is a staple. And it's where you'll end up doing your laundry if you're not lucky or disciplined enough to have a laundry budget, and not organized enough to do your laundry elsewhere.


  1. Fuck it's so sketchy. It's like one in ten times I do my laundry there that somebody needs me to be afraid of them for some reason I don't get to find out. I wish somebody would put together a laundry service that's as accessible as the Meeting Place, but as safe as CONC.

  2. How safe are the showers, how are they set up?

  3. Well, they're not locked or anything, but the entrance to the showers is visible from the rest of the bathroom, so if something happens and there's someone else in there, they might be able to witness it. That's about as thick as the security situation is. So, pretty sad. Someone could easily grab your stuff or you. Buddy system, I guess, is what I'd recommend.