Mobile shower offers homeless a fresh start
When you’re homeless, a shower after a week or more without one makes you feel like a million bucks.
That’s how Craig Monday describes it, anyhow. Monday has been homeless for about a year.
“It feels like $1 million, like you just won the lottery,” he said. “It feels like a new beginning, out with old and in with the new. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type stuff.”
Monday, like many who are homeless, gets by with a free shower once a week through Shower to the People, a ministry that provides homeless people a comfort many take for granted.
Frank and Louise Fargo, of Clearview, started their unusual ministry in 2008. Frank Fargo outfitted a trailer with a bigger shower, extra water tanks and a hot-water system. Louise Fargo collected new socks and underwear, clean T-shirts and toiletries.
Since then, about 3,200 people have used the mobile shower.
“I don’t know how many socks or toiletries we’ve given out,” Frank Fargo said. “That one is just beyond me.”
The city of Mukilteo hosted a donation drive through November as part of its Employee Wellness Program to benefit the ministry.
City staff partnered with several local businesses to collect about 2,500 travel-sized toiletries – toothbrushes, soaps, shampoos, deodorants and so on. They presented the Fargos with the donations on Monday at City Hall.
“We as a staff think it’s a wonderful thing that they’re doing,” said Associate Planner Linda Ritter, who helped organize the drive. “Everybody needs a little help now and then.”
The Fargos take the trailer to First Presbyterian Church in Everett on Wednesday nights and to Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood on Saturday mornings.
As many as 20 people take a shower each time. Frank said more use the shower at the end of a month, when their money may be running out.
“At the beginning of the month they usually treat themselves to a hotel, but by the end of the month they’re back here for a shower,” he said. “It’s usually my busiest time.”
People are asked to limit their showers to 5-8 minutes, but the Fargos don't time anyone. Frank said people like to stay in there longer to keep warm when it’s cold and to cool off when it’s hot.
As the hostess, Louise Fargo provides people a washcloth and towels and any clothes or toiletries they may need. She writes their name in a guest book.
Toiletries fill plastic containers on the floor and new underwear, socks and clean, used T-shirts are stacked in the back.
A curtain allows for privacy in the part of the trailer where people can remove their clothes. Another curtain then leads into the shower.
Frank Fargo got the idea after reading the book “Under the Overpass” about a man who didn’t know what to do with his life so he became homeless for several months. The man described going for six weeks without a shower.
Frank Fargo had met homeless people through his church. He realized there was a need that he could help fill.
“People are super appreciative of it,” he said. “When they come in, they are usually desolate and down in their mouth… and they come out of the thing, and they are just so happy and cheerful and thankful and praise God. It’s really a sweet thing.”
He said many of the homeless people who come for a shower live in the woods, under an overpass, behind a dumpster or in a van. He has many regulars who show up once a week.
“There are people in need, and so I try to help them if I can,” Frank Fargo said. “I really appreciate what God has given me and that I’m able to give back.”
Monday, 38, is one of those regulars. He had a falling out with a friend over paying rent and ended up on the street. He goes to Trinity Lutheran Church on Saturdays for a shower. He said he gets another shower from a friend during the week.
He sells Real Change newspapers and volunteers for the Korean Nest Mission. The mission provides him with a monthly bus pass and toiletries.
Monday said he’s thankful for Frank and Louise Fargo and Shower to the People, and that they’re at the church once a week to provide homeless people showers and a fresh start.
“I think it’s awesome, above and beyond the call of duty as a Christian,” he said.
Volunteer Lois Sugars helps the Fargos with the shower on Saturdays. She said she used to be very judgmental, but after she started volunteering, her attitude about the homeless has changed 180 degrees.
“When you meet them and you talk to them, you see that they’re just regular guys and either they’re down on their luck or this is what they choose,” she said, adding that she always feels good when she leaves.
The Fargos pay most of the expenses themselves, but they also get donations from the community. Frank Fargo picks up donations for the shower at his church, Cascade View Presbyterian. He said they’ve never had a city collect donations for him before Mukilteo.
“I’ve never had a city sponsor me before,” he said. “I brought my truck and trailer over there. I didn’t know what to expect.”