Giving people ‘access to be clean’: Shower program for homeless begins in North Kitsap

Source: Originally Published by the Kitsap Sun.

Integrity Roofing is honored to sponsor and donate the necessary means to help provide the unsheltered neighbors of North Kitsap access to public hygiene services.

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A humble trailer, a lineup of tents, a list of volunteers and a water tank in a gravel parking lot will power a new North Kitsap Fishline program to give homeless clients an opportunity to shower.

The social services provider this week is launching a pilot showering program, called “Fresh Start,” which will run three times a week, with designated days for women, families and men. When clients arrive, they’ll go through a COVID-19 screening and a check-in process. They’ll be offered hygiene products, new clothes, a fresh towel and 15 minutes to shower. Clients are encouraged to schedule an appointment, but the site will also accommodate walk-ups as time allows. In a four-hour shift, the program will be able to offer 16 showers.

“This is really about community public health,” said Lauren Beck, who manages Fresh Start. “Everyone deserves access to be clean, especially during this time.”

Clients will also be offered detergent, coins and dryer sheets so they can stop by a laundromat and wash the dirty clothes they arrived in. Fishline is also looking to launch a hairstyling and barber service in a trailer on-site.

For those living in a car or camping in the woods, opportunities to shower can be limited. In thinking about the possibility of a new showering site, Beck said she’d regularly ask clients coming to Fishline for services if they had access to a shower or if they’d use a program if one was launched.

“The response was, ‘Yeah, I don’t know where I’m getting a shower,’” she said.

The mobile shower trailer at North Kitsap Fishline in Poulsbo offers showers for the homeless, and those who come will be given coins and supplies to launder their clothes.

Fishline Executive Director Lori Maxim noted a client who said she had gone 30 days without a shower: “Imagine going 30 days without a shower, how would you feel? How do you get a job? You can’t.”

“We just said, ‘That’s just not acceptable.’ That’s when we made a decision, we had to find a way to help this population.”

With other nearby showering locations closed, Maxim said, Fishline moved to fill the void using a showering trailer offered up by Kitsap Rescue Mission, which didn’t have need for it. For now, the program will be based out of a gravel parking lot next to Fishline’s campus on Viking Avenue in Poulsbo.

Those looking to schedule a showering appointment can call Fishline at 360-779-5190.Get the Daily Briefing newsletter in your inbox.

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Showering’s not just for physical health

A move to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds earlier this year has allowed the Kitsap Rescue Mission to offer expanded showering options to the unsheltered clients it serves, said Ami Leach, the mission’s director of services.

At the mission’s downtown Bremerton shelter, a shower for a client with a late-night work schedule might not have been possible because of the disruption it would cause. Now at the fairgrounds, guests can shower freely, a benefit brought on by the pandemic and the expanded services.

“For what COVID has been for the world,” Leach said, “it has been a blessing for the unsheltered guests in Kitsap County, for us to be at the pavilion to offer wrap-around services, we see so many people thriving and doing well.”

“Most of us just associate showers with the physical well-being, but how many times have you had a bad day and said, ‘I just want to take a hot shower’?” she said.

“It’s not just our physical health that showers are beneficial for.”

Throughout Kitsap, Coffee Oasis offers homeless youth a place to take a shower and do laundry at its drop-in locations. Daniel Frederick, the organization’s executive director, said he had recently talked with a woman who was living in the woods and would catch a series of buses to a location so she could take a shower.

“It would give her the confidence to go look for work, to go and have appointments she needed to have, simply because she was clean,” he said. “Her laundry got done and she should could go about the rest of her day with confidence.”

“We’ve been doing this for over 20 years. I’m still blown away by how meaningful a hot shower can be.”

Lauren Beck, Fresh Start Coordinator, talks about the mobile shower program at North Kitsap Fishline in Poulsbo on Friday.

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