It was another busy day at A House in Austin, 533 N. Pine Ave. In the children’s room, several toddlers and young children pasted small colorful paper squares in the shape of a rainbow while their parents enjoyed a break before their Thursday Parent Café session.
In the basement, standing next to two top-of-the-line washing machines, Rajeeyah Muhammad said she has enjoyed the variety of programs the nonprofit offers, such as their parents’ support group and children’s music class since becoming a mother in 2021.
“They had a cookout in the summer, it was pretty nice,” Muhammad said. “In the holidays they have things for us to do so we can meet up with each other and also spend time with our families.”
It was Muhammad’s first time doing laundry at the house located at the corner of Pine and Race avenues, a new offering for parents that started earlier this year.
“It’s just more convenient cause you don’t have to stress about not having a laundry unit open or having to watch your clothes intensely because someone might take them,” Muhammad said.
For parents like her, having access to the laundry machines located in the house’s basement offers more than convenience. She said laundry can become a difficult task to complete given her work schedule, lack of shared laundry facilities in her apartment building and limited transportation options from her house to a laundromat.
A House in Austin provides the service for free, with complementary soap and drying sheets, and even helps arrange transportation if parents need it.
“As far as our families go, we find that it’s just really an essential resource,” said Lynnette Kelly-Bell, executive director. As a mother of four children, she saw laundry quickly accumulate until she found time to go to the laundromat.
“I think as a parent it’s good to be able to have a space where you can come and just get one or two loads done,” Kelly-Bell said, adding the organization always wanted to offer free laundry facilities for participating parents, it was just a matter of time. Donors helped purchase the washing machines and help the nonprofit by buying washing supplies on their Amazon wishlist.
She said many of the parents face the same challenges as Muhammad: limited transportation options, busy schedules and lack of access to laundry facilities at home. With this option, parents who attend A House in Austin’s parents’ programming can sign up to simultaneously use the laundry facilities.
“It’s not overwhelming, they pop it in before our program starts, check on it mid-program, and by the time they’re ready to go home, it’s ready to go,” Kelly-Bell said.
Their parents’ programs include Parent Café, where parents have an opportunity to take a break, enjoy the parent area, including computers and kitchen space or chat with other parents. In Parent Chat, led by a licensed clinical social worker, they can discuss important parenting topics, hear other parents’ experiences and get support.
While these programs take place, their children get access to programs designed to develop developmental skills through music, reading and play activities. All programs are offered at no cost to parents.
“Our main goal is just thinking of what does it take for a parent to be successful and have a fairly functional schedule with their family…” Kelly-Bell said. “We just want to make [laundry] a resource they can come and use freely.”