Jeannie Deigan, left, and Marie Rose, who are engaged, stand Wednesday on the front steps of the Washtub Laundromat on Horton Street in Lewiston. The two met Sonia Bermonty in the parking lot of the Big Apple store in Lewiston where  the three of them were helping homeless people. Together they created a voucher program for homeless people to wash their belongings. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — The Washtub Laundromat at 100 Horton St. and three local women are helping provide free laundry vouchers to the homeless.

Similar to a service Trinity Jubilee Center in Lewiston was providing, the new vouchers give some leeway for the length of time a person has to do a load of laundry for free.

The new voucher, provided by local couple Jeannie Deighan and Marie Rose and the business’s owner, Michelle Beaudette, ensures a double load of laundry washed and dried, detergent, softener and a dryer sheet, a choice of one Gatorade, Powerade, water or soda, and one snack. The voucher can be used anytime between noon and 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Sonia Bermonty, center, gives laundry vouchers Wednesday to a homeless couple, Doris Harvey, right, and Joey Guimond, in front of the Big Appple in Lewiston. Bermonty refers to the Big Apple parking lot as her office where she meets up with homeless people to try and find out what each individual needs to support them in their lives. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Deighan and Rose happened upon Sonia Bermonty about three weeks ago while doing some unrelated outreach for the homeless. They were brainstorming about how to make life a little bit easier for them and discovered their passion projects matched: homeless access to laundry services.

The couple said they wanted to find a way to help in a meaningful way and without duplicating efforts. Already focusing on helping the homeless nearly every day after working hours, the couple surveyed people and asked if a free wash could actually help.

Bermonty told the couple about the laundry voucher program at Washtub through Trinity, but the three discovered from their talks with the homeless that the vouchers are usually a same-day affair. So, the next day, Deighan called Beaudette to ask the status of the program.


When she said Trinity’s vouchers only yielded two people in a two-month period, Deighan got Beaudette to enter into an agreement on the spot: $10 for every voucher. Rose and Deighan bought 20 vouchers to start with.

The trio said their aim wasn’t to undermine Trinity’s involvement, but to “expand on it, open it up,” Deighan said. “So (the homeless ) wouldn’t have to feel the pressure to have to try to figure out, on top of everything they might be going through, to have to be here on that day.”

They also said the vouchers are not being funded by any organizations. They handed out 15 of the 20 they bought and plan to invest in 10 a week in the future. So far, no one has redeemed any vouchers, but it has only been about a week since word has gotten out, Bermonty said.

A person holds a voucher Wednesday that homeless people can use at the Washtub Laundromat on Horton Street in Lewiston to do one large load of laundry. The recipient also receives laundry soap, dryer sheets, a snack and a drink. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Feedback from the homeless they spoke with since has been plentiful, she said.

Rose and Deighan said the opportunity, which might seem like minimal progress, is huge.

Bermonty said it puts into perspective the sense of normality that most take for granted, the ability to throw a dirty pair of pants on the laundry pile and put on something else.


Sonia Bermonty hands a package of instant macaroni and cheese Wednesday to Doris Harvey in the parking lot of the Big Apple store in Lewiston. Just minutes before, Bermonty met Harvey and her partner, Joey Guimond, and told them about the laundry service at the Washtub Laundromat on Horton Street she and two other local women have started to assist homeless individuals. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“For some folks, all they’ve got is the clothes on their back…,” Bermonty said. “They just have to stay with their dirty clothes over and over again until somebody is able to provide them with something. Being able to have clean clothes, as simplistic as it sounds, is just more complex for people who are not everyday people who get to take advantage of being able to clean clothes.”

Homelessness and the lack of vital resources hits home particularly for Bermonty and Deighan who both grew up poor. Bermonty lived on the streets for a long time.

“I grew up with a single mom who struggled and had to use programs,” Deighan said. “She had to do some difficult things financially to put food on the table … She was always someone who would give back because she needed those resources … and I’m out here trying to do something I know that would mean something to her. And it means something to us. It’s a little personal.”

Sonia Bermonty, right, and Doris Harvey hug Wednesday in the parking lot of the Big Apple store in Lewiston. Bermonty has started a program with Lewiston residents Jeannie Deighan and Marie Rose to provide vouchers to homeless people to wash their belongings at the Washtub Laundromat on Horton Street. Bermonty, who was homeless when she was a teenager, said she strives to be the kind of person person she needed when she was in trouble. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Bermonty said she puts a lot of effort into helping the homeless because she knows what it’s like to be there. It’s an annihilation of character, she said, and a “stigma of people immediately thinking you’re a bum.”

“When I was homeless, I was just a kid, so I know that I was a good person,” Bermonty said. “I was just a kid, innocent, and I had clothes that I had to wear even having accidents because there was no public bathroom for me to use or I just couldn’t hold it anymore.”

Washtub Laundromat accepts vouchers from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Sun Journal staff photographer Andree Kehn contributed to this story.

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