LOS ANGELES — Washing hands and personal hygiene is an important part of preventing the spread of coronavirus, but, for the homeless, getting access to soap, water, a sink, or shower is not so simple.
A local nonprofit is working to change that by providing not just showers, but giving individuals dignity and confidence.
What You Need To Know
- 66,436 people in Los Angeles County are experiencing homelessness in 2020
- Mel Tillekerathe started The Shower of Hope after working in Skid Row and realizing that showers were in short supply
- The coronavirus has affected The Shower of Hope, but its team is more committed than ever to provide access to clean showers
- The Shower of Hope has 9 trailers throughout Los Angeles County. On average, they serve about 1,800 people a week
Chace Beech, who interned at the LA Times, reported that 66,436 people in Los Angeles County are experiencing homelessness in 2020. For the 66,436 individuals, a daily rinse could be hard to come by.
“If I can smell myself, then I know there’s a problem, and that anyone else can smell me. I like to be clean, even though I am homeless,” said Octavia Botvinikoff who is experiencing homelessness.
Mel Tillekerathe is the co-founder and executive director of The Shower of Hope. In 2011, he was working in Skid Row giving out free meals when he realized showers were in short supply.
“We thought we were going to start with one shower trailer, but when the people used our service, we saw a reaction from them that we never expected from just a simple shower,” said Tillekerathe.
After that experience, Tillekerathe decided they were going to expand in Los Angeles County. By doing so homeless people would have access to a shower, no more than five miles from where they stay.
When people seek help from The Shower of Hope, they come for the showers, but it’s more than just a shower and cleanliness. Some people said the showers boost their confidence, and being clean makes them feel good.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected The Shower of Hope, but Tillekerathe and his team are more committed than ever to provide access to clean and safe showers.
“As soon as the lockdown happened, the gyms closed, and even the gas stations were limiting the people to come and use their bathrooms. So what that meant is at a time when cleanliness was the most important thing to stay safe from COVID-19, the unhoused community in L.A. completely lost access to it,” added Tillekerathe.
With COVID-19 around, Tillekerathe and his team took it to the next level.
They take a longer time to make sure the shower stalls are completely clean, and they create an environment where people don’t have to be within six-feet of each other.
They will be able to come get a meal, a shower, and stay safe while doing so.
“It does give you hope. I’ve been thinking about it, it’s an unquantifiable feeling. So, it’s hopeful, and that’s what the value is so I love it and I appreciate it. Thank you,” said Jacob Alsbrook who is experiencing homelessness.
The Shower of Hope has nine trailers throughout Los Angeles County.
On average, they serve about 1,800 people per week. To learn more about the organization, go to theshowerofhope.org.