By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
A shower on wheels will be wheeling into a Delray Beach church on Fridays for the next six months to give the city’s homeless population a place to freshen up.
Thanks to nonprofit Live Fresh Charity, the shower truck will park at St. Matthews Episcopal Church, 404 SW 3rd Ave., during lunchtime on Fridays.
Currently, the church serves lunch to about 100 people on Friday afternoons. City staff estimate about 30 percent of those people will take advantage of the shower service.
Commissioners approved the program as a six month pilot program. The program will not cost the city any money. The idea is supported and requested by the Delray Beach Interfaith Committee for Social Services and endorsed by the city’s Homeless Task Force.
The showers were an idea Chris Bentley came up with several years ago while living in New York City.
He said he would see homeless people walk in and out of coffee shops and see how they were treated. He also understood the way people in those establishments felt.
“When I am down in the dumps, the first thing I do is take a shower, get a hair cut and put on a fresh shirt,” he said. “Anything that makes me feel better when I look in the mirror.”
He said he wanted to give that opportunity to others and the idea came to life after he teamed up with another organization and they received a $100,000 grant from Impact 100 of the Palm Beaches.
In 2016, the shower trucks were purchased and they have been operating at different locations. They have a presence in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Beginning on the second Friday of January, the shower will be located in Delray.
During the trial, city staff will monitor the program. The city will keep track of crime data to see if there is an impact, the number of people the shower attracts and ask residents who live nearby what they think about the program. A report on the program will be presented to commissioners in June.
The trucks have four stalls. Each stall has a portable shower, toilet and changing room. Folks using the shower will be provided with a wash cloth, towel and toiletries. Volunteers will oversee operations while truck is onsite.
“I see this as an opportunity to do what we are supposed to do to help our community,” Commissioner Shirley Johnson, who is also a member of St. Matthews Episcopal Church, said. “How many of us could go one day without a shower, let alone a week?”