Can a shower truck really make a difference?
A mobile shower unit, designed to provide showers for homeless clients, was purchased by Foundry Church in Bend, Oregon. But it was in disrepair.
That’s when Tom and Tricia Stutheit took over the administration of the truck and recruited Dan Lawry, a retired electrician, mechanic, and general tinkerer, to contribute his expertise.
Relationship-building, one person at a time
Tom and Tricia had just moved to Bend and were attending Foundry Church. While driving around town, they noticed the homeless people with their signs. Tricia remembers praying, “I want to know their stories. I want to know how to help them.”
And then Tom was approached at church to help get the shower truck up and running. Once it was in working order, he and Tricia took it out.
Tom’s interests and expertise coincided with Tricia’s desire to know the stories of the homeless. For Tom, it was about the truck and getting things operational; for Tricia, it was about relationships. And both are critical for the work to be most effective.
Meanwhile, Dan got started working with the homeless community when he and his wife, Charlene, volunteered to help with food prep and serving meals at the local Family Kitchen.
Dan wasn’t comfortable at first. But in time, he got to know the names of the guests and started establishing relationships. “One by one their stories came out—the different circumstances of why they’re homeless.”
When Tom approached Dan about helping with the shower truck, it seemed like a natural progression.
Author Bob Goff says this:
Jesus doesn’t need our help with the hungry or thirsty or sick or strange or naked or people in jails. He wants our hearts. He lets us participate, if we’re willing, so we’ll learn more about how He feels about us and how He feels about the people we may have been avoiding.
A blank pallet
The first shower truck was crudely constructed with only one room and three shower stalls. Tom, Tricia, and Dan saw a need to accommodate men and women with two separate rooms.
In the fall of 2018, Tricia spoke to the women’s group “200 Women Who Care of Central Oregon” on behalf of the Community Shower Truck. As a result, the philanthropic group awarded CST—by this time an established nonprofit—with a $23,000 grant.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Dan located a 24-ft truck for $20K. Like an artist transforming a blank canvas into an intriguing work of art, Tom and Dan—with the help of other volunteers—worked all winter in the cold.
They collaborated on designing the lay-out. They built and installed and insulated and plumbed and wired and laid flooring, transforming this blank pallet into a usable and economical mobile shower unit.
“Between the two of us, a three-month project turned into a six-month project,” Dan said with a grin.
“We just want to be clean”
The majority of the shower truck clients are single homeless men, but CST is seeing more and more women and families take advantage of their services.
Miriam, one of the volunteers, knows what it’s like to live on the streets. “You just want to be clean,” she said. Miriam is grateful to be a volunteer. “It’s a way to give back to my community.”
Eugene is a shy, soft-spoken homeless man who noted: “It’s really important to stay clean.” He spoke highly of the staff as caring people. And then he added with pride: “This new truck – I helped build it. I’ve been taking showers here for years, so I kinda owed it to them.”
Soap, shampoo, and a towel. Hot water. They seem like such simple things. “But it’s one more way to improve their quality of life,” said Dan.
The harvest is huge
The Community Shower Truck’s operating budget is about $23K a year. This includes the cost of truck fuel, propane, hand-outs, and storage (the truck is kept inside heated storage so the water doesn’t freeze).
Hand-outs consist of soap, shampoo, conditioner, razor blades, shaving cream, deodorant, socks, and underwear.
The shower truck parks at the Family Kitchen three days a week to coincide with the meals served there—Tuesday dinner, Wednesday lunch, and Friday lunch. The truck also does a run every Thursday to Jericho Table in Redmond.
Tricia referred to the words of Christ when talking about how huge the homeless issue is: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2).
“The homeless harvest is huge,” she said. “It’s people with addictions, generational bondage, and young people who think living in a camp is cool. It’s people who’ve lost their jobs, and kids aging out of foster care. And the workers are few. We need drivers and people to come alongside to help.”
If you’d like to volunteer or contribute toward this amazing work, please visit the Community Shower Truck website.
Dan’s wife, Charlene, died of cancer earlier this year, and Dan continues his volunteer work. “It’s been fun to put some of my skills to good use,” he said. “It’s been a labor of love.”
What if each of us could find something that drives us, something that’s fun, something that utilizes our talents and skills and interests?
And what if that “something” could grow into a labor of love?
This thought from Bob Goff:
God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, “Let’s go do that together.”
Go ahead, get off the couch.
Because until we stop seeking the comfortable and start leaning into awkward, messy, uneasy places, the things we were meant to do with our one wild, available, passionate life won’t happen:
The Habitat for Humanity houses we were meant to build.
The gardens we were meant to grow and the people we were meant to feed.
The medicine we were meant to practice.
The counseling and teaching and mentoring we were called to do.
The shower trucks we are gifted to design and build and operate.
How to be a difference maker? By providing one meal at a time; one shower, one towel, one clean pair of socks at a time. By listening for God’s whisper to our hearts: “Let’s go do that together.”