A simple shower can do more than just cleanse—it can renew a person’s sense of dignity and provide them with the chance of a better tomorrow.
One of the main barriers to employment for the homeless population in any city is access to something we all take for granted, the chance to literally get clean.
That’s why nonprofit Showered With Hope is working hard to offer a free mobile hygiene service to New York City’s homeless population.
By retrofitting mobile transit buses to provide showers on the go, they are also able to bring these individuals toiletries, clean clothes, and fresh food, and will even connect them with job training resources and employment opportunities. These simple tools can help restore a person’s self-sufficiency and helping increase their odds of re-entering the working world.
“Just imagine how you feel after a day without taking a shower. Now, multiply that feeling by five or ten or fifty, because that’s typically the amount of time unsheltered individuals are forced to live without access to showers or any kind of hygiene service,” said Apurva S. Parikh, co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of Showered with Hope.
“The inability to clean oneself eventually culminates in feelings of inferiority and worthlessness that only serve to perpetuate the state of homelessness.
Growing up in New York City, homelessness is all around you, and the misconception that there’s always “help if they want it” is a dangerous one. It is very easy for people to slip through the cracks, and that’s why Parikh and his team are local heroes, hoping not just to make a difference in the lives of those in need, but to improve the community around them.
As of September 2016, there were 61,931 homeless people—25% of them families—sleeping in the New York City shelter system each night. Thousands more sleep on the streets and in the subways, and the rate of homelessness is the highest it’s been since the Great Depression.
According to Parikh, the City’s measures to address the issue, while gradually improving, continue to fall short, and their service will provide a temporary solution while conditions in municipal shelters are improved and affordable housing is expanded.
Parikh and his Co-Founder, CEO David Lin, started the organization after realizing that they had almost become desensitized by the sigh of New York City’s homeless, and because they felt there were more unique solutions out there that needed to be put into action.
While Showered With Hope operates only in NYC, similar initiatives exist in California and Missouri. In general, however, the idea of mobile hygiene to assist the homeless is still quite new, and the nonprofit is hoping to demonstrate its effectiveness in transforming lives.
The team is determined to reduce the stigma associated with homelessness while helping those in this unfortunate state return to the working world. Ironically, one of the main causes is job loss, and it can be hard to find another job with an unstable living environment and no dependable way to take care of your health or hygiene.
“A large part of success in job interviews, and in other professional setting, hinges on physical appearance and presentation, so homeless individuals are extremely unlikely to be hired,” said Parikh, who is currently a full-time research assistant at the undergraduate campus of NYU and plans to attend medical school.
“We hope that regular access to a shower and other hygiene services will allow these individuals to feel clean and dignified, motivating them to improve their lives.”
Taking it a step beyond, the nonprofit has partnered with local organizations that provide education, healthcare, and vocational opportunities to the homeless with the hope of fostering permanent change in their lives. In doing so, they will also be able track the progress of those they serve by frequently communicating with those partners.
In the process of attempting to raise funds for the Shower Bus, the organization hopes to raise awareness for why so many New Yorkers are living on the streets.
“Municipal shelters have frequently been cited for hostility and violence, deterring many from approaching them for potential shelter. As a result, many homeless individuals have expressed a preference for life on the streets and our service aims to help those individuals in a clean, safe, and friendly environment,” he said.
The “Shower Bus” model, with its deep reach to local, on-the-ground partnership organizations, is one that can easily be replicated in any city or state.
“Our goal is to lift these individuals up and bring them back into the working world, and our service has the potential to transform the lives of many in a short period of time and in a way that is relatively unique,” said Parikh.
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