House of Hope happy to be part of revived shower program

House of Hope happy to be part of revived shower program

PAWTUCKET – Details of a restored shower program for the homeless residents of Pawtucket are still being worked out, but two organizations have confirmed they’re part of it.

House of Hope, which previously offered showers at a brick-and-mortar facility on Dexter Street, is hoping to bring one of its Shower to Empower mobile units to Pawtucket as part of a joint solution with the city and Support the Soupman Corp. of Massachusetts.

House of Hope Executive Director Laura Jaworski, pictured, said the organization has a long history of helping members of the community in need. Showers, which could not be immediately implemented at the organization’s interim location at 249 Roosevelt Ave., are only one aspect of numerous services it offers to homeless residents, she said.

When House of Hope found out its lease would not be renewed at 187 Dexter St., its staff immediately made contact with a Pawtucket-based organization about developing shower space in a new building and has been working toward that goal ever since, Jaworski said.

City officials announced last week that House of Hope’s Shower to Empower and Support the Soupman would soon both be bringing mobile shower units to an undecided location, ending a summer where many homeless residents went without showers. The goal is to have the showers up and running by the end of the month, but there are a number of moving parts, said Jaworski.

The space at 249 Roosevelt is a great one for meeting needs, particularly being near the Department of Human Services, said Jaworski, but there are challenges in making showers work here. What many people don’t realize is the complexity of providing such services, with a need for privacy, security, a water source and appropriate disposal of discarded water.

The mobile Shower to Empower program by House of Hope, which has three mobile units in Providence, is more than showers for the homeless, but provides a welcoming space where many needs are met, Jaworski said, adding that it’s been her hope all along to bring an existing mobile hygiene unit to Pawtucket. She added that the organization has helped a number of homeless residents get to Providence to take showers there during the hot summer months.

Jaworski said she looks forward to learning more about what Peter Kelleher and his Support the Soupman Corp. do with their shower units. There are only about 140 organizations doing mobile hygiene units, she said, and it’s admirable for anyone to meet such a basic need. Kelleher, she said, has a powerful story to tell for his motivation.

It will be important going forward, said Jaworski, for everyone to work together to get homeless residents their basic needs. It will be critical for those coming to Kelleher’s showers to be able to ask the next questions about where to go for other services, she said, and the ability to offer that next step is a particular strength of House of Hope. Those coming need to be told where to go for housing and other important services, she said. Someone may be selling sex for shelter and not want to do that anymore, and it’s important to know what to do with those individual cases, she said. In other cases, someone might express concern about a health condition elated to their arm, or an issue with their foot (a frequent problem among homeless) and they need to get appropriate referrals.

The mobile hygiene units work so well because they’re out in the community where people are comfortable and are already going, said Jaworski.

House of Hope, which also runs the ACCESS-RI program previously operating on Dexter Street and now at 249 Roosevelt Ave., started its Shower to Empower program in April 2018, said Jaworski. By the end of August, the program had provided about 1,705 showers at three locations in Providence four days each week.

Those mobile hygiene units also offer medical services and haircuts, providing 692 haircuts during that time and 450 instances of medical care services. The shower unit has “become such an important engagement tool,” she said. The average number of showers for one homeless resident is seven and then they move on to shelter or more permanent housing.