“this shower enables me to keep my job”
why we do it
we exist to fight a simple yet significant issue in charlotte – the lack of access to showers and toilets for those who are homeless and yet-to-be-housed – by putting a mobile shower unit on our streets. why? it’s simple. dignity matters and is a very real desire of every single person, regardless of circumstance.
according to mecklenburg county’s point in time count report, 1,476 people experienced homelessness in mecklenburg county in 2017. fifteen percent identified as unsheltered – meaning they spent the night in their car, a vacant building, camp or bus station, or on the street. access to showers is very limited for those who can’t or choose not to stay in a shelter. additionally, there are only four showers in the city open to those who identify as homeless. the wait for a shower can be upwards of a few hours and the hours may not be compatible for those who work during the day. we need more showers with night and weekend service offerings that aren’t static – something we offer. those who can’t access showers may end up washing up in public sinks, outdoor faucets or not at all. as a result, they suffer from alienation and preventable diseases like skin infections, open sores, scabies, lice and staph infection. limited access to regular bathing may exacerbate chronic diseases like hiv or diabetes by posing barriers to treatment adherence, and can pose a public health concern.
hot showers sound good don’t they – after a long day or workout, after a weekend of camping, when you’re sick or cold? the very thought of one is appealing. that’s a benefit we can leverage. the draw of such a basic activity provides us the opportunity to engage with our homeless community. our goal, first and foremost, is to connect with them on a personal level, to acknowledge their existence and restore dignity. through this, we’re able to cultivate relationship and from there, discern their greater needs. that’s why our community partners are key – the relationships we build and conversations we have allow us to work in concert with other agencies serving our homeless community.
sadly, not everyone sees the value in this service; some have asked us if this is a need. we hope to help change that belief. we challenge anyone to go just a week without a shower. the “need” question quickly becomes irrelevant. it’s easy to take simple blessings for granted – the next time you shower, we encourage you to practice gratitude. one of our homeless friends once said, “to be clean is a beautiful thing”. we couldn’t agree more!
we’d be remiss to not mention the many benefits of regular bathing. our guests deserve to know what reduced stress feels like, even if it’s only while they’re with us. they deserve to experience improved emotional resilience, higher levels of alertness, self-confidence and improvements in their overall physical health. and let’s be honest with each other, looks matter. we live in a world where appearance is everything. providing increased access to regular bathing opportunities (and shaving!) can mean the world of difference. many of the homeless we have come to know will tell you that a shower is the difference between setting up an interview or not; is the difference between landing that job; is the difference between keeping that job. we feel opportunities present themselves when people are treated with dignity.