In recent years, there have been have been many efforts to improve the health of our communities by increasing access to care and providing more public health services. But, nurturing health across a community requires more than health care. One's health begins long before they reach the doctor's office. It begins in places where we live, work, worship, learn and play - in our families, workplaces, neighborhoods, schools and communities.
The "Smoketown Laundry" is a new project being planned in our community. Current partners working on the project include YouthBuild Louisville, IDEAS xLab, Simmons College, Bates Memorial CDC, Jewish Family and Career Services and Leadership Louisville's Bingham Fellows. The Smoketown Laundry uses an innovative approach to developing community-wide strategies to improve the health of Smoketown residents by transforming an unused, vacant property into a laundromat, with multi-functional space that focuses on the other "everyday life" things that impact health including economic well being, social support and community safety.
The Smoketown Laundry project’s initial efforts will focus on: 1) developing the infrastructure and business plan for opening the laundromat; 2) hiring a Community Health Connector to help build capacity within the Smoketown community and to increase understanding of health equity and how it impacts community health, and 3) developing plans for opening a minority-owned small business incubator to help with Smoketown entrepreneurial efforts and developing career readiness programs.
Beginning at the KFTC Smoketown Getdown in September and then continue for many months. The project team will meet with many Smoketown groups and residents to ask them for help in planning.
Why a Laundromat?
First, a laundromat is a need that has been identified by the Smoketown community as a high priority. Second, social science evidence indicates that a laundromat is an effective communications center with the potential for increasing social connection in our community.
A laundromat can be much more than a place to wash and dry clothes. It can be a place where community residents can take classes, learn new skills, obtain health services/education, and serve as a community meeting space that enables community networks to be built... in between washing and drying our loads of laundry. These services and programming will be offered in the multi-functional space in the laundromat. YouthBuild Louisville, a non-profit organization located in Smoketown, has recently acquired the property where the new Smoketown Laundry will be built. This is important because YouthBuild's commitment to the neighborhood is both historical and will continue long term into the future..
What else will be in the Smoketown Laundry building?'
A Community Health Connector - Understanding health information, knowing how to navigate the health care system, and where to go for services are challenges that many people face. Through a partnership with Project H.E.A.L (Health. Equity. Art. Learning.), IDEAS xLab, and YouthBuild, a Community Health Connector (CHC) will be hired to work on the Smoketown Laundry project. CHC's are people who, with training and support, bring their ability to relate to people and their own life experience to transform health and well-being in communities. They motivate people to get involved in healthy social activities, raise awareness of health and healthy choices, create groups to meet local needs, and help community members in Smoketown connect to relevant support and services. This will be done primarily through educational workshops and health promotion.
Funding for the CHC has been provided by KentuckyOne Health who will also provide the CHC the technical training and support necessary to be an effective health advocate for the community.
Minority Owned Small Business Incubator - Lack of income is often a driving force behind health disparities in communities. Studies show that low-income American adults also have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic disorders than wealthier Americans. In an effort to increase income levels of those residing in the Smoketown community, an integral part of the building space will be dedicated to a minority-owned small business incubator. The incubator is being developed with by three community partners: Simmons College, a historically black college located near Smoketown; the Navigate Center of the Jewish Family and Career Services, which has an long-established relationship with YouthBuild; and Bates Memorial Community Development Corporation, which is affiliated with Bates Memorial Baptist Church. The business incubator would support the development of minority-owned entrepreneurial companies, with priority being given to businesses located in Smoketown, helping them to survive and grow during their start-up periods. Through assistance and training programs, the collaborating organizations will help entrepreneurs develop the business skills they need to grow once they graduate from the program.