A mobile shower is helping the homeless in Vancouver.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Many people take at least one shower a day.
But for people living on the street, one shower could mean the difference between another homeless night or the first step toward something better.
The nonprofit Food with Friends has been around for only a year-and-a-half. It officially launched its mobile showers on Sunday behind The Chapel at Living Hope Church in Vancouver. The goal is to help the homeless, one shower at a time.
That means a lot for people who don’t have a roof over their heads. Living outside, especially in the winter, can be especially miserable. You can just ask Karma Jones.
“Last winter, oh goodness, I’m talking everything’s drenched. You’re drenched, you’re freezing cold, it’s just unbearable, it really is,” said Jones.
She has been homeless on and off since she was 18 years old.
“I don’t want to be out here. But it’s the fact of like I have to be. So you just gotta deal with it the best way you can I guess,” Jones said.
Dealing with it means a shower can be hard to come by.
Jones said sometimes people go weeks, months even, without a shower. But Jamie Spinelli with Food with Friends, wants to change that with the organization’s new mobile showers.
The trailer containing the two showers is relatively small, but they’ve already made a big difference for people who had the opportunity to try them on Sunday.
“I think most of the responses were, it was the first shower they’d had in a very long time and it was definitely the hottest and longest shower they’d had in an even longer time,” said Spinelli.
Spinelli said a homeless shelter in Vancouver stopped offering showers this past summer. To address the need, Food with Friends raised $15,000 in one day to pay for the mobile shower trailer.
She said without a shower, people could stay homeless longer. According to Spinelli, sometimes people who have not had the opportunity to take a shower in a long while, may be hesitant to interact with others or get help.
“It’s hard to get a job interview. There’s a lot of them that won’t even try because they know they smell bad or that their clothes are dirty or their hair is dirty,” Spinelli said.
She said a simple, hot shower means a lot to people who don’t regularly get the luxury that so many people take for granted.
“We’re people too. We have lives too. But we’re just struggling right now you know,” said Jones.
While Jones hasn’t tried the mobile showers yet, she said she can’t wait to take a shower in one. She said she hopes people treat the showers with respect so the showers aren’t taken away.
“We need it. People literally need it,” she said.
Spinelli said the next goal is to move the mobile showers around to different parts of Clark County. She said all they need is access to water, power and a sewer in order to run the showers that run off a tankless hot water heater.
They hope to be back at The Chapel at Living Hope Church next Sunday.
Spinelli said the goal is to raise more money to try and fund a self-contained mobile shower that will be easier to move around than a trailer.
Staff at Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office said Wheeler is interested in the mobile shower idea and is currently in discussions about how to secure private funding.
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