LODI — Before Monday, April Eurich hadn’t been able to take a thorough shower since February.
Limited in her mobility and ability to access washroom facilities at charitable organizations by a wheelchair, for the last several months Eurich has had to rely on wet wipes and water from spigots around town.
But this week, she and Lodi’s homeless population were treated to a new facility that not only provides showers, but resources for turning their lives around.
Founder and president Mary Jarrard, vice president Kelly Hanisch and treasurer Lori Behnky officially opened their Showered With Love Mobile Showers on Monday morning at the Grace and Mercy Charitable Foundation Cafe located at 425 N. Sacramento St.
“It’s so amazing,” Eurich said after her shower. “I’m not able to do this at any other place. They limit you to five minutes. But here, once you get in you have plenty of time to get undressed, wash and get dressed again.”
Because Eurich is disabled, Jarrard, Hanisch and Behnky installed a lift on their mobile facility, a bus that has been converted to accommodate three shower stalls, two of which are standard size.
Jarrard said she and her partners in this venture plan to be at the Grace and Mercy Cafe every Monday.
Those in the homeless community that want to shower will register, providing their real names, ages and where they are currently located. Once registered, they take a number and wait for their turn inside the bus.
A ‘now serving’ window, which is really just a number screen, is affixed to the top of the bus that will alert those waiting that it is their turn.
When their number is displayed, they are provided shower shoes and allowed to climb on the bus. A standard stall has a small seat atop a cabinet that one can place their belongings.
Once undressed, a timer located just inside the shower door is activated, giving people five minutes to wash their bodies and hair. Soap, shampoo and conditioner is provided inside the stalls.
After the shower, people are provided clean underwear and socks and a hygiene kit containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, razor and tissue.
In addition, individuals are offered snacks or a meal from the Grace and Mercy Cafe, as well as brochures and pamphlets offering phone numbers and addresses for other non-profits that can link the homeless to housing and employment.
Eurich said at other charities and non-profits that provide shower facilities, users are given just five minutes to undress, wash and redress. Showered With Love provides people with as much time as they need before and after the shower, she said.
“I’m very excited this is here,” Eurich said. “It’s embarrassing, I know. But this was great. Now I know it’s going to be here, so I can get myself here.”
Jarrard initially started Showered With Love in February, acquiring the bus, renovating it and gathering donated underwear and supplies.
Monday was the mobile shower’s first day of operation, opening at 9 a.m. By 11:30, Jarrard said nine people had taken advantage of the shower.
“It’s been wonderful,” Jarrard said of her first day in business. “We are here to be a step up, or a hand up, not a handout. We’re not here to make them feel comfortable about being homeless. We’re here to build relationships and trust through a loving service.”
Clifford Armstrong said he takes a shower about once a week, usually at another nonprofit. However, like Eurich, Armstrong said the five-minute limit, as well as long lines at other places, can be an inconvenience.
He added other places do not provide shower shoes or clean underwear, something a lot of the homeless need after not bathing on a regular basis.
“I’m excited to have this,” he said. “It’s great to have a place to clean your body. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s a godsend.”
Jarrard was inspired to start Showered With Love after witnessing several homeless in Stockton use the restore at the Helping Hands Thrift Store where she worked to clean themselves.
She began researching solutions to their plight and discovered the Cleansing Hope Shower Shuttle in Modesto. She contacted the founders and soon began volunteering with them to get a glimpse at how a mobile shower works.
Jarrard then recruited her friend Hanisch, and last year, they were approved as a non-profit organization. They were soon gifted a bus from Faith Community Church in Acampo.
Hanisch said the first day of operation, although they only served about a dozen people, was still a success.
“It’s super-exciting,” she said. “Everyone has been able to shower, we were even able to use our lift. We got to use all of our facets today, so we’re just excited about the whole day.”
The Showered With Love bus will not only be located in Lodi during the week, Jarrard said, as Tuesdays through Thursday they will be visiting sites in Stockton.
Jarrard said the goal is to provide 60 homeless people with a shower each day, every week.
“It’s just so rewarding to give some dignity to people who need it,” Behnky said. “And just helping people is a good feeling.”
For more information about the Showered With Love Mobile Shower, visit www.swlove.org.