PLANO, Texas (AP) — Finding a place to take a shower was difficult for Todd Allan when he called a tent under LBJ Freeway his home earlier this year. It forced him to improvise.
“I used to go in a creek and bathe,” the 46-year-old said.
The Dallas Morning News reports on a recent Tuesday, Allan and two friends, Stanford Robinson and Ageim Brown, stumbled upon Lance Olinski’s Streetside Showers outside Plano’s CityHouse shelter. The mobile trailer is equipped with two showers and bathroom stalls the men could use to get clean for free.
Although Allan is not homeless at the moment, he said his housing situation is not stable, and he was happy to discover a place he can wash before going to work in case he has to return to his old tent under the freeway.
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“This is a blessing from God,” he said. “It’s nice to see that there are people who care about you.”
Olinski started Streetside Showers in June after he said he saw a homeless man trying to bathe at a sink in a McKinney rest stop. Olinski said the scene triggered him to find a way to bring warm showers to people who may not have easy access to one.
“When I saw that, it just really broke my heart,” the 47-year-old said. “Honestly, everybody deserves a shower. If you think about how often you take a shower a day, most people will take one or two showers.”
Olinski learned of a group in San Francisco that has turned public buses into bathrooms that homeless people — or anyone — in need can use. He traveled to California to see their efforts and decided to bring the concept to North Texas.
After raising nearly $22,000 through private donations, Olinski bought the Streetside Showers trailer that includes two showers, two toilets and two sinks. The McKinney man hauls the trailer throughout Collin County to provide hygiene services to those who need them.
He also gives people who use the showers a fresh pair of socks, new underwear and a hygiene pack full of toothpaste, deodorant and other travel-sized toiletries donated to him by individuals and other organizations.
“We try provide some things that they need during the week,” Olinski said of the hygiene kits. “I have stuff available in the shower trailer, but it may be another week before they get another shower from me.”
The trailer makes three stops a week. On Sunday afternoons the trailer is at The Vintage Church in McKinney. On Monday afternoons it’s at Hope Clinic-Baptist Immigration Center in McKinney and on Tuesday afternoons Olinski sets up at CityHouse in Plano.
“If you can’t get clean, then you can’t find a job,” Olinski said. “It’s hard to get housing and it’s also hard to maintain your health and well-being. When you’re able to wash and be clean, it brings some healthiness to your life.”
Chey Reynolds, development and marketing director for CityHouse, said volunteers usually try to reach out to people with fliers or by word-of-mouth about the mobile showers when they deliver packs and other services out to them. She said the showers not only help homeless people feel and look better, but they also change how they are perceived in society.
“If they are clean and have clean clothes, then they aren’t going to be viewed negatively, or have that suspicion of what they are doing and what they’re up to,” Reynolds said.
The showers currently serve up to 25 people a week, but Olinski said he’s seen new people come out each time he sets up the showers. He said he’s working on expanding them into Dallas County, and hopes to eventually purchase a second trailer to help with that expansion.
Jo Giudice, the director of libraries for the city of Dallas, said hopes to have the showers at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in downtown Dallas by the end of the year. She said the plan is for the showers to be at the library twice a month.
“We are eager to do it,” Giudice said. “We are trying to offer as many services here for folks who may not feel comfortable going to The Bridge (Dallas’ homeless shelter) or other service providers.”
Until the Dallas County plans are completed, Olinski and his showers will continue their Collin County route.
Ageim Brown smiled as he recently exited one of the trailer’s shower stalls in Plano. He said it had been more than a week since he had last showered. He said he usually takes one whenever he can save enough money to stay in a hotel room. But he said his current job doesn’t pay him enough to afford a hotel room all of the time.
“It’s indescribable,” he said of the showers. “This will give anybody hope.”
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com