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This Mobile Shower And Laundry Lets The Homeless Stay Clean

How can you look for housing or a job if you don’t even have the dignity of having showered?

This Mobile Shower And Laundry Lets The Homeless Stay Clean
[Top photo: iPortret via Shutterstock]

We’ve covered a few other mobile homeless showers and laundry projects, including this one in San Francisco and this one in Australia. It appears the idea is picking up steam.

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Project WeHOPE, a homeless non-profit in San Mateo, California, is crowdfunding a new type of facility for its clients: a customized trailer that comes with showers, a washer/dryer, and bathrooms.


“The approach is a hook to restore their dignity so they can have the right mindset and they want to get a job or go to their medical appointments,” says Paul Bains, the founder of Project WeHOPE. If you’re haven’t washed in days, it makes a world of difference to take a shower and get clean, he says. For the homeless, it can also be a first step to regaining self-esteem and finding a shelter or supported housing.

The trailer has an accessible ramp, a small hydraulic lift for wheelchairs, and its own tank for grey water collection. Once it’s built, WeHOPE plans to take the trailer to encampments in the San Mateo area, including in Half Moon Bay where many homeless migrant workers live on the beach.

“The goal is not to leave them in the encampments, but to get them into permanent supported housing. It starts with them going to a mental health counselor, doctor, or even a dentist,” Bains says. In many cases, homeless shelters or faith-based charities don’t have their own showers or washing machines, so the trailer will be useful for those situations too.

Bains estimates that each facility will cost $170,000 a year, including the cost of the trailer, the truck, supplies, and someone to oversee the operation. WeHOPE hopes to get plenty of volunteers and will rely on the clients to do much of the maintenance.

WeHOPE has received some in-kind donations already, including a year’s free detergent from Tide and $11,000 worth of towels from the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto. It’s looking for supplies of toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair combs, and deodorant, as well as the services of social work and medical professionals.

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You can support WeHOPE’s campaign here.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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