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The Bartholomewtown Podcast
Special Report: Shower to Empower Looks To Inspire and Prepare Homeless Community for Self-Sustainability
April 18, 2018 Bill Bartholomew
In this special report, Bill Bartholomew descends upon Shower To Empower to investigate the new mobile bathing, haircut and homelessness-support and outreach facility spearheaded by local philanthropist Bret Williams' Team Williams, House of Hope and The City of Providence.

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:0:01And Innovative Approach to attack a homelessness crisis in the city of providence as shower to empower makes it's debut on central street in the city south side. A partnership between the House of Hope Community Development Corp Team Williams and the city of providence shower to empower describes itself as a one of a kind mobile navigation unit, offering showers and haircuts to the city's rapidly expanding and often overlooked homeless population. I drove to the central street location where shower to empower was set up this morning and it's where I met Laura Jaworski of house of hope, who gave me some background on the project,

Speaker 2:0:41so excited here today to have the first showers and haircuts offered through the Sharon power mobile navigation unit. It's a 20 foot custom built trailer that offers to hot shower stalls, a private medical exam space for medical navigation services, and then a flexible space where services like haircuts can be offered, but were other support services can be provided as well as our outreach case managers can work as well and and really take it beyond just that initial basic need provision, but then continue to work with folks. And ideally eventually help them get into housing.

Speaker 3:1:17Right. And with the housing crisis in Rhode Island, do you see yourself as sort of an intermittent phase for an individual who might be in a tough place right now? Or will, I guess what would you say to those critics who say you're empowering people to just live on the streets?

Speaker 2:1:33So in our work, we've been serving the homeless for close to 30 years and in that time we've never found someone that chooses to be homeless. Unfortunately, people are homeless for the simple fact that they don't have a place to live. It starts with that. Certainly there are other things that come along. Certainly addiction is a problem that comes in it. People are underemployed, lack of employment. There's a whole litany of reasons, but they're secondary. Um, it's challenging. It's hard to find a place to live. The market's really tight, hard to be a renter, and certainly quite difficult to even become a homeowner. And it's often far beyond member our folks reach. But what we believe in is, is listening to the folks that we serve, asking them what their needs are. We heard loud and clear that access, safe access to a hot shower was one of those most critical of their needs. We are fortunate enough to be connected with Tim Williams who presented this idea and was really excited about it and passionate about it. And over the last 18 months I've worked really hard to see about making that concept happened as a reality and that's why we're excited to be culminating in today's event because we're, it's kind of right an action something that we've been looking forward to, to have it come to fruition. So

Speaker 3:2:40how's the turnout then? What sort of outreach have you done to the community and what do you expect going forward? Do you think there'll be more of these mobile units out here

Speaker 2:2:51perhaps? You know, we've been doing street outreach around the state for close to three years now. A lot of it's been concentrated around the providence metro area. Just that's where people, people typically ours, where a lot of the services are. Um, and so we've been sharing that the Sheridan power unit is going to be coming online today with our folks today. We, we've already given out six showers, made those available and we have a number of folks that had haircuts today. I think folks would be pleasantly surprised to hear that the first person that came to get a shower was a young woman in her twenties who has been living in her car, who has been unable to afford an apartment, um, and she hasn't had a shower in three days and she was getting ready to go to a job interview this afternoon, saw the information and stopped by this morning. And now she has not only the self worth and the dignity to enter that job interview, but you can enter it confidently. Um, and we also take care of her body at the same time. So I think folks are often have a lot of misconceptions about who is homeless and what the face of homelessness really looks like. And I think it was demonstrated by the first person that access the shower units. Um, I think would really surprise to them.

Speaker 1:4:03Nearby. I met Brett Williams, founder and president of team Williams and the man who dreamt and created shower to empower. We talked about the process of getting shower to empower off the ground as well as some of the opposition to the project that I had heard on talk radio while driving over

Speaker 3:4:20local guy live in Narragansett, Rhode Island. And I met Laura at House of hope. It's been a great partnership, you know, quite honestly, we didn't know. I wish there wasn't a need for this, you know, it's, it's actually pretty sad kicking her off yesterday because we didn't have to do this, but we do a spend a night last fall out in the streets and talk to the people and you know, we did a lot of homework on this and it wasn't a, we're not enabling anybody. We're trying to give them a handout. No human beings. A lot of people brag about adopting pets and that's great, but it will help a human. I think that's what we should be doing and it's just, uh, took us over two years to get this thing done and we're really happy with the way it's going. It's still new and we're working the kinks out of it. But people keep through you today. I wish you could have a soft. Some of the expressions on their faces. You see their eyes light up. I came up with this idea.

Speaker 3:5:22Actually I should say I didn't come up with this idea. I saw a video on youtube in London that was a barber who grabbed a pair of raise that bar raiser scissors, you know, calm and walked down old park and giving people experiencing homelessness here and there was a connection between them and you know, you could see a, at the end he put a mirror in front of their face and their eyes light up, you know, it gives them dignity and self respect and above all hope. So that stuck with me. And then I saw another video about an organization out west. It was, they put showers into a box truck down to a park and we'd given people showers and so why the hell can't we do this? Combined the two together. And Laura came up with the medical outreach and we're going to get these people in the system and hopefully this leads to employment and if we can change one person's life where they can get a job, it's has a multigenerational impact they're going to move on and hope for.

Speaker 3:6:17They're never in the streets again. Right. And it's, there's been criticism that this doesn't have a benefit enough people even make it worthwhile. It doesn't do. It doesn't make a dent, but one life may be enough to justify this entire project. One life being drastically improved. That's right. That's right. One you're talking about, you get somebody off the street where they have employment and housing and like I said, a multigenerational impact is it actually is a, it's a web that will impact not just that one person. I know there's a lot more than what I'm able to help in one, but that's kind of a way that we looked at this and also just taking action like you have here, actually putting something into play, you know, rather than just sort of armchair facebook posting or even being critical of the sort of activity you're actually doing something to benefit people. You can either sit on your hands or do something about it. So like choosing to do something about it. I was, I was born in a shelter in western mass and my parents adopted me when I was five months old. I don't know where I would have ended up, so it's time to pay it forward

Speaker 1:7:27for updates on this story. Keep listening right here to the Bartholomew town podcast in south Providence, Rhode Island. Bill Bartholomew for the Bartholomew town podcast.

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