Showers for the Houseless
A step toward dignity, ability to generate income and move from the streets to housing.
Much of my life I have observed the houseless people in my communities, wishing/wanting to be able to do something for those who found themselves on the streets and recognizing that there had been times in my life when, had things gone slightly different and if I had not been so lucky/fortunate - it would have been me that would have been houseless and selling pencils on the beach.  There is still something inside me that recognizes that that possibility never leaves any of us - particularly me.
Earlier in my life I had gone through a similar experience when I could not stand to watch the starving children in Africa on television and I could not deal with it - changing the channel - feeling that there was nothing that I could do about it.  But ten or so years ago I found that there was something that could be done about it - something that I COULD do to make a difference.  That something is called microcredit - a program of small loans to the poor to finance their small businesses and allow them to generate income, Its best known leader is Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh who created Grameen Bank and who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his contribution to peace that the ability to generate income provides.  This led me on a path to Bangladesh and India to study under Yunus, learn first hand from those who were providing microcredit to the poor and then from the poor who were benefiting from this program and lifting themselves out of poverty.  It was and still is a life changing experience for me - and resulted in my spreading the gospel of microcredit by portraying Yunus at colleges, Rotary Clubs, churches - as well as to groups of microcredit borrowers.  Today, Grameen Bank has been replicated all over the world, and came to the United States six or so years ago - creating Grameen America.  So now, Grameen Bank from the poorest major country in the world has come to the United States, the richest major country in the world to help us out of poverty. 
Rotary has been a big player in the success of microcredit throughout the world. 
But that is another story for another day.  My story for today has to do with discovering that there is something that I can do to help those who find themselves homeless right here in my community - that there is something that I can do to make a difference.
I have learned about some very exciting fairly new programs that are called - housing first which are being done on large scales in other communities and is the program that we are in the early stages of doing what we can to implement in our area - here is a link to what is meant by housing first.
Everything else seems like a band aid - but we need some band aids to help those who are houseless along their way to having housing - and Showers of Blessing is making a huge difference in the quality of life for our houseless friends.
I live in Goleta, CA, next to Santa Barbara on the east of Goleta and just north of the University of California at Santa Barbara and its adjoining university housing city of Isla Vista.  This area is known for it beauty (being positioned between the mountains and the ocean) and affluence.  Unfortunately this area is also too well known around the world for it shootings - this is the one year anniversary of a spree that killed six people, and some years back another killing spree in our local postal center and, as I write a major oil spill just up the coast from us.  It is an area that is particularly appealing to those without homes.  Dawn lives three miles from me and for three years I had the privilege of being the Volunteer Vice President of the Unite to Light program that Dawn is President.  It still excites me the difference that a simple little LED light with a solar panel can make in the lives of so many around the world and I remain a self appointed advisor/kibitzer/supporter to Dawn.
The need and priority for showers for houseless individuals in the Isla Vista and Goleta areas, near Santa Barbara, California, was identified in 2010. HEAL (Hope, Empowerment And Love) took it on as a project to bring hygienic, portable showers to our area. Christ Lutheran Church of Goleta, led by its Pastor Rev. Ron Cox, agreed to buy a two-shower trailer from their portion of the funds from the sale of the University Religious Center. HEAL, a part of the Interfaith Initiative of Santa Barbara, agreed to take ownership of the Shower Trailer and found a donor for a truck to pull the Shower Trailer. HEAL accepted operational responsibility for the program named “Showers of Blessing.”

How It Works—Shower Courtesy
1. Sign up upon arrival.
2. Total time to 7 minutes — 5 minutes to shower — conserve water.
3. No washing of clothes.
4. No smoking, drinking, or illegal drug use
5. Place all wet linens and clothes to be washed in the hamper (in bath-room or outside of door.)
6. Take all belongings out of unit when finished.
7. Leave facility and grounds clean.
8. Be respectful to all.
It takes $32,000 a year to operate and expand the Shower Trailer Ministry.
  Here is a Recent news article in the Santa Barbara Independent
Showers of Blessing has been operational six months - now providing showers and services in two locations weekly and one monthly.  The current run rate is 40+ showers a week - which is double what it was the first quarter of this year and continues to trend up.  We are anxious to see where it peaks for the current locations - particularly as we are headed into the warmer months of summer.  The Shower has evolved into becoming for many of our clients the highlight of their weeks as they not only get showers, hygiene products, clean or new clothes (particularly socks) but also a chance to hang out with other houseless individuals and those of us that have the privilege of getting to know and support them.  Meals are also provided at each of the locations.
The fruits and joys of this work have recently become most vivid as four of our houseless friends have become an important part of the steering committee that runs the trailer and of those four, one is our part time, paid, female operations manager who can now afford and will be moving into housing July 1, another volunteer has just moved into housing and two others (a couple), who are computer geeks are keeping track of all our records and are on a program that we expect will wind up with their being housed by year end.
You may wonder why we use the term houseless rather than homeless.  It was chosen because some felt that it is a word that provides greater dignity - while at the same time, it is still less than an ideal word - and the real dignity comes from how those of us that are fortunate enough to have homes treat our friends and the role that we might play in making a difference in their lives.
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