A clean start for the homeless

    Shower trailer loaned to Options for Helping Residents of Ashland by Grayback Forestry until OHRA's is ready for use. Photo by John Darling

    After being missing in action for a year, Ashland’s shower truck is back, providing free showers, shampoo, razors and towels for the homeless in two locations each week.

    The old shower trailer was destroyed in a propane explosion, which caused burns to Leigh Madsen, executive director of Ashland Community Resource Center.

    The new one is on loan, at no cost, from Grayback Forestry, while awaiting delivery of a $45,000 shower trailer that is being outfitted in Eugene and should arrive by the end of the year, said Madsen.

    The permanent shower trailer will have two showers and three washing machines, said longtime social justice volunteer Rich Rohde, who was busy handing out towels.

    It was paid for by Options for Helping Residents of Ashland (OHRA), he said, thanks to grants from the State of Oregon, Oregon Community Foundation, Ben Cheney Foundation and private gifts.

    The cleanup service is vital to maintaining basic health among the homeless, Madsen says, as well as increasing self-esteem and making users more presentable for job interviews and work.

    “The hygiene that comes from showers and laundry are really important to maintaining good health,” said Madsen, “and that helps with several people who are working at Harry & David, gas stations and doing dishes in restaurants.”

    Working the shower at the Methodist Church, volunteer Sally Kirkpatrick said, “It’s a great thing for the homeless community to have the shower again, for them to be clean and see them happy. We enjoy interacting and getting to know them. If you work or go to an interview, it helps so much and people aren’t looking sideways at you.”

    Fresh from a shower, homeless “traveler” Beth Horne said, “I travel a lot and there’s not a lot of opportunities for the homeless or transients (to get clean). It might be only once a week. It makes you able to function in our society better. When you go without a shower for a long time, you develop health issues, like fungus, with your feet cold, wet and dirty, so this is really good.”

    The trailer is open at 9 a.m. Saturdays at The Grove, 1195 E. Main Street; and at 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays at the Methodist Church on Laurel Street at North Main Street.

    The shower trailer program started in 2014 and always needs volunteers, said OHRA president Ken Gudger. To contact OHRA, call 541-631-2235, email info@homelessoptions.org or go to helpingashland.org for more information.

    John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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