Arizona school offers laundry room for students not showing up due to lack of clean clothes
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A Phoenix-area charter school has created a laundry service after administrators realized students’ lack of access to clean clothes was preventing them from coming to school.

“Maya High School is an alternative high school. We serve a population that struggled in other school settings,” Principal John Anderson told AZ Family, noting that about 30 percent of the student body is homeless.

“We make them believe in themselves and to want to do it for themselves. The laundry room has created a buzz,” Anderson told the outlet. “Students know that we put our money where our mouth is as far as Maya being a community and saying we are all in."

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One former student who now works in administration at the school told the publication how being homeless can impact students.

"I come from a homeless background, sleeping in abandoned buildings, having no clothes, washing the same pair of clothes every single day,” Andreya De La Torre told the publication.

“But coming to school smelling, kids don’t want to be by you,” De La Torre added. “They are talking about you. And it’s just really hard to focus on your education when you are focused on your self-esteem.”

Anderson said that due to budget constraints, he was forced to seek a grant for the program, which its management company, the Leona Group, provided, along with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Fiesta Bowl.

The number of unsheltered homeless people in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, has increased about 149 percent in the past four years, Lisa Glow, the CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services, told a Phoenix-area ABC affiliate in July.

The state itself has one of the nation’s highest eviction rates, and justice courts in Phoenix processed more than 25,000 eviction orders in 2018, she said.

Officials counted nearly 26,000 homeless people in the county throughout 2015, according to Phoenix Rescue Mission, which added that the economic crisis means many of them are experiencing homelessness for the first time. While 61 percent of Arizonans live in the county, it contains an estimated 71 percent of the state’s homeless population.

A Newark, N.J., high school implemented a similar program in 2018, using a $20,000 grant from a local utility company to fund the initiative.