Homeless shelter uses "special" blankets - why?

Story here:

Why would they need “special” blankets that are so expensive to launder? What makes these blankets so special?

At a guess, they are more resistant to stains, holding infectious debris and harboring vermin. (I’m thinking of things like odor-eater socks and the like that have special fibers, weaves and permanent treatments to the cloth.) $3 is not all that expensive for laundering a large, heavy item; I’d guess even home laundering exceeds $1. They may not have their own bank of industrial washers and dryers and depend on a service.

Probably germicidal. But what blanket doesn’t cost a few dollars to launder? Assuming at a cleaner’s or even the large washer at a laundromat…

They probably also need to be flame retardant.

Those too, and don’t forget that they have to be permanently labeled YOUR TAX DOLLARS BEING WASTED as well.

It looks like Barrie Out Of The Cold is a private, church-sponsored organization.

Could be made of wool which I believe cannot just be thrown into a washing machine but ate some of the best blankets for emergency situations. Could also be because of some health code requiring expensive additives to the wash water.

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True. At our laundromat, if it fit in a 2-loader, it would be $3.75 (free dry). If you needed a 3-loader, it would be $5.35.

Sincere apologies for the political joke. I failed to note this was in GQ.

Maybe it takes multiple cycles to get them acceptably clean?

Not a clue - they look like the fairly normal honeycomb weave hospital blankets to me. I can do an entire load of laundry and dry it in a laundromat for $3. If they are going to a laundromat instead of an in-house washer and dryer they are insane.

If I had a shelter for 35 people, I would have a commercial triple load washer, triple load dryer and a centrifugal water extractor. [the water extractor spins out enough water to significantly shorten dryer time. I would imagine that you could set it up to run into a water recycling system to reduce water use.]

I would imagine that they could get decent condition used commercial equipment if they go to the local commercial laundry and ask for help in sourcing stuff. Hell, I know that using household appliances would kill the poor things off pretty quickly, they just are not made for that volume of washing, but the whole $3 per blanket is just plain stupid. The money they would save just having one each of the commercial equipment would be immense.

It still doesn’t seem to be explained, what they need some “special” kind of blankets for.

For the hygiene purposes, I would think that the important thing is to wash them in special ways, using some industrial-strength toxic stuff to kill everything that lives therein. Just like they would do in hospitals or nursing homes. But would this also require special blankets too?


The blankets need to be edible in case of emergencies?

My first thought was maybe they’re some kind of safety blanket or anti-suicide blanket like they give to hospitalized or incarcerated people who may be suicide risks. They’re really, really tough and stiff so they’re hard to tear into strips or fold, which probably makes them really difficult to clean.

I bet you’re right.

When I was looking (at Whole Earth Access, no less) for washer/dryer, i came upon a weird, single-hose washer.

Turns out it is used by commercial gyms - law requires the towels to be washed at “not less than xxx degrees” and residential washers couldn’t (easily) handle that requirement.

Anybody know if shelters are subject to any other public accommodation, such as hotels/motels?

I can’t come to any conclusions about the situation until I know exactly the name brand/material contents of the blankets and get a copy of the care instructions. Once I see those, I can determine whether that expense is legitimate or whether someone’s doing something stupid.

I’ve heard lots of excuses from the homeless for why they don’t like shelters, but never once did one tell me the blankets were uncomfortable. This may be true in a few cases, but I’d doubt it’s true generally. The homeless have lots of ways of committing suicide, if they so choose, that doesn’t involve going to a shelter.

Frankly, I have trouble seeing how you could state that “keeping someone destitute alive in the cold” is a waste. Even the most hardcore conservative doesn’t want death to be the penalty for having no economic value to society, do they? (whether it’s mental problems or laziness, homeless have no economic value to the capitalist system, more or less by definition)

I mean, you could argue that constructing a deluxe housing project for the homeless to live in would be a waste, or that spending taxpayer money to bus them to the voting polls would be a waste, or feeding them food that is nicer than the bare minimum would be a waste…but keeping them alive with a damn blanket? What?

Or do you not have a problem with the concept of giving a homeless man a blanket, but rather think that blanket should not be an expensive blanket that costs $3 to launder. That may be a valid point…however, keep in mind that if homeless person gets a disease because of a shoddy blanket, it’s going to cost society money to treat them (or you let them die). That might cost more money than the blankets, especially if it’s a disease like tuberculosis. (which, I might note, if you let them die they will probably infect others, some of whom may be true American taxpayers)

I hadn’t thought about it before. But I’ve never heard our local shelters ask for blankets. No matter how cold the weather. I guess they can’t take donated used ones.