This Austin nonprofit hosts free laundry days for unhoused locals, then changes their lives for the better

Two women smile, holding laundry baskets in a laundromat; a woman smiles while walking out of a laundromat

For years, the Austin, Texas nonprofit Maximizing Hope has teamed up with volunteers from HPF Hearts for the Homeless to run a life-changing laundry program for Austin locals experiencing homelessness. 

For nine months each year, they offer pop-up laundromat events with the promise of two double loads of laundry and “all the fixin’s” of detergent, bleach, and fabric softeners. 

Tonya Coy, the founder of Maximizing Hope, said that most guests come expecting a free laundry day, without realizing a network of volunteers are waiting to help them with health care services, housing applications, and more. 

“What catches them by surprise is the sack lunch, hygiene kits, CapMetro bus passes, clothing and shoes from Kerby's Clothing Ministry, notary services, DPS ID payments, and Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) Coordinated Assessments to see if they are eligible for housing,” Coy wrote on the organization’s Facebook page

A woman smiles in
Community members in Austin are eager to take advantage of free laundry events. Photo courtesy of Maximizing Hope

Coy said that Maximizing Hope is all about setting people up for success with realistic solutions that lead to long-term housing. This includes letting people use Maximizing Hope’s business address as a way to apply for jobs and receive mail. 

“If guests want to start on our 'Next Steps' we will walk with them hand-in-hand to achieve [that],” Coy added. “We work towards obtaining identification, sustainable health care, housing, food security, and a sustainable income.”

Maximizing Hope has its own cycle: nine months of free laundry days and all of the services it renders, and then three months on hiatus as the volunteer case workers ensure no one they’ve helped falls through the cracks. 

“Otherwise it’s overwhelming,” Coy told the Austin American-Statesman. “We have to hyperfocus at some point.”

Coy founded Maximizing Hope in 2020 after speaking to unhoused locals who were seeking shelter beneath a bridge, trying to survive a sweltering summer day that soared to 107 degrees. As she handed out Gatorades in the shade, Coy felt compelled to keep coming back. 

A man sits on a bed in his new home
Maximizing Hope also helps place neighbors in new, safe housing. Photo courtesy of Maximizing Hope

“With friends, family, and neighborhood support, we decided to keep bringing drinks, food, and other items to the campsites to make our neighbors safer and more comfortable,” Coy wrote on the nonprofit’s website. “As we started regularly visiting the camps under US 183 in Austin, we began serving over 100 people a week.”

Although the nonprofit has only been operational for four years, Maximizing Hope has had a definitive impact on the city of Austin. By building lasting connections in their community and prioritizing real-world solutions, they’ve successfully gotten many of their neighbors off the streets for good. 

“[Tonya] has always been there for me, helping me out even when I was just ready to give up and move on,” wrote Austin resident Jameson Roberts beneath a Maximizing Hope social media post. “She would never let me go away without feeling of hope that it would happen just stay in it. … Thank you again for taking the time you have given me hope and now I'm right where she said that I would be: in an apartment.”

Header images courtesy of Maximizing Hope/HPF Hearts for the Homeless

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