One of the simplest, most pleasurable feelings we can have is to feel clean, energised and refreshed and this is something that’s often universally denied to our homeless population. The basic human right to be washed, hygienic and cleansed goes out of the window for those without a home and it can have hugely detrimental effects on a person. When you’re not clean, you don’t want to interact with others meaning that your social life can greatly suffer, but more than this, your own sense of self and well being can be damaged on a huge scale. This is something that, once we think about it, we’re aware and can feel pity, sympathy or great sadness for these people. However, how many of us actually do anything about it?
Here we look into some of the greatest mobile bathrooms around the globe; their purpose, their location and the differences they have made…
Where is the Location of These Mobile Bathrooms?
USA; San Francisco
‘Restoring dignity, one shower at a time’ was the $75,000 idea from former marketing executive, Doniece Sandoval. Homeless San Franciscans are invited to spend a, private, 20 minutes in the decommissioned bus that has been transformed into a mobile bathroom - catering to both men and women. The selfless act by Sandoval began when she saw a homeless young woman crying that she would never again be clean. She investigated further and learnt that there were very few places in the city which permitted the homeless to wash - a mere eight public showers to accommodate more than 3,500 reported homeless.
The non-profit mobile bathroom bus has two complete bathrooms where guests can bathe in private for 20 minutes. There are also showers, sinks, toilets and a private changing room.
USA; New York City
‘Showered with Hope Inc.’ is in the process of being introduced in the state of New York. Founded by students, Apurva Parikh and David Lin and inspired by Doniece Sandoval’s scheme in San Francisco, the aim is to provide the city with the essentials of food, water and clothing. The basic elements are the same as the project in San Francisco - renovating old buses into mobile bathrooms, but this scheme will have the additions of clothing and help and advice regarding employment opportunities.
USA: California; Goleta
Currently a pilot scheme, the non-profit organisation HEAL (Hope, Empowerment and Love) have the logistics, the location and the units in place to provide a mobile showering service for the cities homeless. A two-room trailer, which has a shower, stall, toilet and sink as well as air conditioning and an environmentally friendly wastewater holding tank, has recently been approved by Goleta City Council and is scheduled to open its doors on December 29th 2014.
With full approval from the city Mayor, the scheme will initially run for three months before eventually travelling across state to invite more homeless people to utilise the showering services. Homeless people will have a full 5-minute slot, which will need to be booked in advance.
Tempe Community Action have been sponsored by the Dial Brand and the Henkel Corporation to provide mobile shower units, with the aim that better hygiene for the homeless will help them to maintain their employment statuses or find new employment. The message is ‘Because everyone deserves a clean start’ and the service is completely free to those with genuine need.
Considered a central part of disaster relief following the devastating tsunami of March 11, a mobile bath unit travels with a 5,000-litre water tank in Yamamoto for the cities new homeless population. The sergeant in charge of the unit, Takafumi Moriguchi, says that bathing is essential and that when people wash on the outside they feel clean within. He also states that the mobile unit is the perfect place for people to relax. The mobile unit has both baths and showers and have the ability to accommodate 800 people daily. Local residents embrace this service, with one lady named Fumi Terashima saying that ‘If it was a shower alone, this wouldn’t be enough. Baths help you to feel warm, baths help you to feel better’.
Hungary has a homeless population of between 30,000 - 35,000 people - with a staggering 20,000 of these residing in Budapest. From January 2004, there have been more than 100 round-the-clock centres providing essential care for those in need, with their operations being supplemented by a Mobile Medical Service. This service travels the entirety of Budapest and offers emergency services for those without homes that include nursing care such as disinfecting baths.
The Salvation Army have teamed up with a project named One Voice, in order to provide a mobile shower service for the homeless people living in Werribee, Wyndham. One Voice will offer homeless people the chance to brush their teeth, shower, shave and have access to a range of hygiene and sanitary products - as well as a fresh change of clothes. The man and wife team behind the service have first hand experience of life on the streets and firmly believe that a homeless shelter doesn’t offer showering in safety, which is why they say they aren’t used more. Private, safe and free showering is now available to any homeless man or woman in the Werribee area.
The mobile showering units are not alone in the category of mobile sanitation for our homeless - Clean bodies need clean clothes and that’s exactly the ethos for the mobile laundry services, ran by Brisbane friends Lucas Patchett and friend Nicholas Marchesi, both aged 20. Named ‘Orange Sky’, the project offers free laundry services to the city’s 300 homeless and is the first of its kind in Australia. Their hope is that the project will be running nationwide by the end of 2015.
It seems that the idea of mobile bathrooms is well and truly off the ground and already benefitting so many of the world’s homeless people. Those with the true desire to help others, determined minds and ability to make themselves heard are changing the lives of our homeless population. So next time you are relaxing in your bath think of how lucky you are to have access to your own bathroom suite that you can use whenever you like.