Five Rotary clubs in Clackamas County officially unveiled on April 24 a second mobile cart providing showers to homeless individuals.
Although the unveiling ceremony took place last weekend in the Clackamas Town Center parking lot, the shower cart is currently available for use weekly in Oregon City.
As of this April, volunteers have contributed more than 865 hours of labor, raised $36,000 for the new shower cart's construction and helped provide more than 420 showers over the course of the pandemic during events typically taking place in church and business parking lots.
Building a new shower cart came out of a conversation in March 2020, when Clackamas County Community Prosecutor Bill Stewart, a member of the Rotary Club of Clackamas, met with Brandi Johnson, executive director of LoveOne, a nonprofit organization that serves marginalized people in the county.
Johnson told Stewart that LoveOne had seen a sharp increase in serious health issues related to lack of access to hygiene-related services. Many facilities that served the homeless in the Clackamas area either stopped operations or ceased providing some services like shower facilities as a result of COVID-19 shutdowns.
Stewart responded by making phone calls, starting with the Clackamas Service Center (CSC), another organization that serves homeless and marginalized populations. CSC agreed to allow LoveOne to operate its shower cart, which had been taken out of service temporarily due to COVID-19 concerns. LoveOne organized volunteers to support the effort, including volunteers from area Rotary clubs.
"We need four volunteers to help with check-in, distribute towels, clothing and hygiene items, and clean the shower stalls between uses," Johnson said. "On-site coordinators provide training and oversee running of the event."
Johnson soon realized that a single cart was not adequate to serve the needs of Clackamas County's homeless population. Fundraising led by the Rotary Club of Clackamas and the Clackamas Rotary Foundation, enlisted the Sunrise, Milwaukie, Oregon City and West Linn Rotary clubs, along with Celebrate Milwaukie and Providence Willamette Falls Medical Foundation. The cart was completed in October and was put into weekly operation starting Nov. 29.
Dubbed "Shower the Shower Cart," the April 24 event encouraged attendees to bring shower "gifts" for the cart — items like shampoo, shaving cream, foot powder and bottles of body wash. Homeless people who access the cart for showers will be able to use these items from 4-7 p.m. Sundays at Milner Veterinary Hospital in Oregon City.
State Farm agent Melissa Miller and her team in Gladstone collected several baskets of personal shower items (soaps, shampoo, etc.) to donate to LoveOne's new mobile shower unit.
"LoveOne was established in part to help homeless individuals access and pay for a laundry facility and wash their clothes," said State Farm's Ty Cordova. "LoveOne had a dream of providing additional resources so they created a mobile shower unit to drive into the homeless community and provide a place for individuals to shower as well."
Johnson hopes the cart will again be back in Milwaukie soon and work with partners to get the cart operating out in Sandy.
"We have temporarily paused hauling the cart to GracePointe Church in Milwaukie on the second Monday of the month because the folks who were utilizing the cart at that site are now housed," Johnson said. "We are in the process of making other arrangements for anyone who comes to that location to access showers, and will bring the cart back to GracePointe once we have need for five or more showers."
Aside from providing much-needed showers, LoveOne noted many other benefits of the events that introduce people in need to other services such as housing, public health services, clean clothing, laundry services and food programs.
Last year the Oregon Heath Authority launched a new program to fund COVID-19 response in communities hardest hit by the pandemic. LoveOne was contracted to carry out work in outreach and community engagement as well as providing social services and wrap-around support. The initial grant amount received by LoveOne for three months starting July 1 was $21,015.
"OHA has continued to fund a large portion of the work we do through laundry and showers," Johnson said. "Recently, OHA connected us with Clatsop Community Action, a nonprofit located in Astoria. CCA wanted to provide showers at an upcoming health and wellness event where they will also be offering COVID-19 vaccinations, lunch, haircuts and more."
Several LoveOne volunteers were excited about the idea and hauled the cart to Astoria on April 29 to provide showers at the health fair.
Johnson said it's difficult to estimate the amount of funding needed annually to operate the cart, but she estimates the breakdown per shower/person is approximately $25.
"If we maxed out the number of showers we can provide at each of our Sunday events, which is 18 (six per hour following COVID-19 cleaning protocol) then over the course of a year the total would be $23,400 for 936 showers," Johnson said.
First and foremost, Johnson said readers of this news story should consider helping by volunteering at shower events. Donations of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, new men's and women's underwear and undershirts (all sizes) and socks also are helpful.
Financial donations can be made through the organization's website or mailed to LoveOne, P.O. Box 212, Oregon City, OR 97045. Volunteer signups, a link to an Amazon wish list and more information is available at LoveOneCommunity.org.
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