Local non-profit Hope’s Village of SLO (HVSLO) has raised $40,000 to purchase a mobile shower unit to aid the homeless in San Luis Obispo. Inspired by the opening of mobile showers throughout California and acknowledging the connection between dignity and hygiene, HVSLO’s Showers of Hope program will attempt to bring aide to the less fortunate in our community. Currently, there are no public showers in the city of San Luis Obispo.
The largest donation received was from Dignity Health which consisted of $20,000. The fundraiser was also given a $200 check from two students from SLO Laguna middle school who raised their donation by throwing a bake sale.
The purchase of the facility is only the beginning. The showers will need volunteer crews to run and maintain them, places to operate, schedules setup and supplies including towels, soap, shampoo, and shower shoes. HVSLO estimates that they cost to run the showers will be around $10,000 annually.
The unit is a pulled trailer that will have two showers, one of which will be ADA complaint. Tim Waag, manager of the program, said that extra features were added to the unit including larger water tanks and extra batteries not only to assist as many people as possible but also to have the option to rent the showers to help fund operational costs. “We designed it,” said Waag, “so it can do about 40 showers, not hooked up to power or water.”
The 18-century theologian John Wesley coined the phrase ‘cleanliness is next to godliness,’ but from a dermatological standpoint proper hygiene directly influences health. The homeless are prone to a large scope of skin maladies that include Dermatophytosis, infections, and body lice. Bathing regularly helps to prevent and even eliminating these conditions, and thus, this hospitable program can be considered a form of preventative care.
Homelessness is often a divisive topic for our county and our country. Based on his experience, Waag estimates that the communal opinion splits right down the middle; 50% being for assisting the homeless and the other half against enabling vagrants by giving them the means and reasons to stay in the area.
It is important to note that the United States homelessness population is on the decline and has been for years. The Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states that the percentage of homeless has decreased steadily since 2007. Comparing the 2007 and 2016 results of the AHAR, overall the displace population dropped by 15% and it declined 3% between 2015 and 2016. The survey estimated that there are over 181,000 homeless in the state of California, which boils down to 22% of all the homeless in the nation.
Based on Continuum of Care (CoC) numbers, San Luis Obispo is second highest in the nation for unaccompanied children and youth in the category of Smaller City County and Regional CoCs. There are 406 unaccompanied children and youth in SLO County. CoC is a system that guides and tracks people through their involvement with health care services.
A 2015 Point in Time survey stated that there were 1,515 homeless in SLO County, which is a 29% decrease compared to a similar survey done in 2011. The results of the 2017 survey have not been released.
Photos by Tim Waag, Story by Mark A. Diaz