Keeping clean is a need we all have and most of us take our daily shower for granted. We step into the shower as part of our morning or evening routine without thinking much about it. For many of our homeless brothers and sisters this is simply not the case. Many people on the street go for weeks without a shower. Weeks without a shower! Imagine what that must feel like.
I have a dream to provide showers and laundry facilities for people who are experiencing homelessness in Knoxville and the surrounding areas. I believe that having a clean body and clean clothing is a basic human right. It is essential for human dignity and health. It is akin to having food and drink. I’m not quite sure how to start, but I know my dream to provide showers for the homeless in Knoxville can come true. I also know I’ll need some help making it happen.
The folks at Shower to the People in St. Louis say, “Clean people are happier, healthier and more hopeful. Shower to the People exists for the most vulnerable citizens among us. Through mobile shower units, social enterprise, and service provider networks, Shower to the People seeks to Restore Dignity, Foster Hope, and Empower Upward Mobility to our friends and neighbors living on the streets of our beloved city.”
In addition to St. Louis, mobile showers are a reality in other cities around the country, including San Francisco, Indianapolis and San Diego. I’m sure that with the right help and some hard work my vision can become a reality here in Knoxville as well.
While our growing Knights of Columbus monthly “Bridge Ministry” of providing sandwiches, cookies, coffee and drinks to those in need has been well-received and truly a blessing to those we serve, I’ve learned through my encounters in this ministry that there is a greater need; one that is not sufficiently being addressed in our city. While agencies who serve the homeless do provide showers for those who qualify to stay overnight with them, there are hundreds of people on the street who are not being served by these agencies. For whatever reason, and they are numerous, they are not allowed into the shelters and, therefore, do not have access to a shower.
Today in the short time we spent distributing food under the bridge we met several people who had obviously not showered in several days, perhaps in weeks. We also came to understand that even if they were able to find a shower, they typically have limited access to laundry facilities. This means they have to put their dirty clothes back on after showering. It’s just not right. We need to do something about this!
Over the next several months I plan to do my research to see how to best make this dream come true. I clearly need others to work with me to make it happen. A project like this requires the involvement of people with a variety of skills. People who can help establish a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, build the shower truck, work with the city to get necessary permits, work with churches and businesses who are willing to let us use their water and sewer hookups, and people who are willing to volunteer to staff the facility, clean the showers, do the laundry, etc., etc. If you are interested in helping me make this happen, just drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together we can make a difference in the lives of so many. We have an obligation to help our sisters and brothers in need. Being clean is fundamental right for each and every person, regardless of their economic status. Reflect on the old adage, “cleanliness is next to godliness” and let me know how you can help.
Won’t you join me in forming and building this new apostolate?