If you’ve never experienced homelessness, I can assure you that it’s a worse ordeal than you can possibly imagine. As well as the obvious things like not having a roof over your head, and wondering where your next meal is coming from, there are a whole bunch of other things that those of us with a home take for granted.
For example, it’s really hard to find somewhere to shower, as well as to wash your clothes, which may be the only clothes that you have. As well as the obvious hygiene issues that this causes, it can also be devastating to a person’s self-confidence.
Thankfully, there are some kind-hearted people out there who have come up with a solution to this very problem, as the UK’s first mobile shower unit for the homeless is launched in Bournemouth, on the south coast.
‘The Shower Machine’ will enable those who sleep rough to have get nice and clean, while their clothes are washed by charity Hope For Food’s mobile laundry service, ‘The Clean Machine’.
The shower is contained within a van and its heating is powered by gas canisters which can provide enough energy for eight three-minute showers.
The van also contains dressing gowns, slippers and fresh clothes for the people to use as they wait for their clothes to dry in the Clean Machine, which also contains a microwave and a kettle.
The founder of Hope For Food, Claire Matthews, had the idea following a conversation with a homeless person about their services.
According to the Bournemouth Echo, she said: “I thought about the Clean Machine and one guy said to me, ‘I’ve got clean clothes but I’m still dirty, what do I do now?’ So I thought, ‘We need a shower.’
— Bournemouthecho (@Bournemouthecho) December 30, 2018
“I know there are other showers in Bournemouth but they don’t like walking too far. So, the concept is, while they’re washing their clothes, they can have a shower.”
Having the was one thing, but turning that idea into a reality was another. The Shower Machine was only made possible thanks to a generous donation from John B Windsor-Pleydell, who heard about the charity’s work and was keen to support the idea.
Sadly, he passed away before it was launched, but a printed tribute is made to him on the van.
The charity organisation Hope for Food, which runs both of the services, was founded in 2012, has provided more than 700 hampers to families living in poverty over this Christmas period – which is twice as many as last year.
Earlier in December, Hope For Food also served a record 100 homeless people Christmas dinner. However, Hope For Food schools and community liaison officer, Sam Langdown, doesn’t think the increasing numbers of service users should be cause for alarm.
According to the Bournemouth Echo, he said: “I believe it’s not all numbers growing, it can’t be, it’s people knowing about us. We’re widening the people that we reach.”
God bless the kind people at Hope for Food, and God bless everyone struggling with poverty and homelessness at this time of year. Here’s hoping more projects like this catch on in other towns around the UK and the rest of the world.