By Cheyanne Tull
Most of Wichita’s homeless population struggles to find safe spaces to shower each week. ShowerUp, a nonprofit that provides showers for the homeless population in the city, is hoping to change that.
ShowerUp launched its outreach in the fall of 2020 to serve those experiencing homelessness with hygiene items and services. The nonprofit provides units to shower, as well as offers necessities, like travel-size hygiene projects, socks, underwear, sleeping bags, backpacks and more. ShowerUp also sets up a table for welfare checks.
Charles, a local homeless man who uses ShowerUp’s services, said the showers alone have had an impact on his motivation and self-esteem.
“I was at a low point; I was dirty. I didn’t really want to do anything, like go to the library,” Charles said. “Man, I came out of that shower, and I was like 100% happier, and I went straight to the library.”
ShowerUp volunteer Sara Beardmor said that the homeless community is unseen. Just by talking to them, she said it seems like they are looking for human connection.
Several misconceptions surround homeless people; Charles said he wished more people knew that homeless people would like to work.
“It ain’t like everybody says all the time that they don’t want to work — oh yeah, they do,” Charles said. “But it’s hard for them to get a job and a place to live, and you can’t get a place to live without a job.”
ShowerUp deploys its mobiles in the parking lot of Church on the Street (COTS) Wichita. Robert “Paki” Vifinkle, the current pastor at COTS, helps homeless people, those with mental illness, and others in need through his ministry.
Vifinkle said he is passionate about what COTS and ShowerUp do, and he protects individuals from the public eye if their circumstances require that.
“We got good, bad and ugly here, from all stages, from all walks of life,” Vifinkle said. “Our main thing is safety for the people that we are here to serve.”
There are many outreach teams in Wichita for the homeless, but unlike ShowerUp, not all seem to help, according to Kristy Cook and James Green, two homeless people. Cook and Green said they had called the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), which is meant to respond to 911 calls from homeless people and support those on the streets due to health reasons.
Cook and Green said they’ve called HOT several times, including when Green had a heart attack. They waited five hours before getting any response.
“We’ve been having problems with the HOT team,” Cook said. “We’ve been trying to get a hotel voucher to get us off the streets. See, (James) has congestive heart failure and chronic COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The doctors told him to not be outside if it goes below 34 (degrees); his heart could seize up with a heart attack.”
Both Cook and Green, who use ShowerUp’s services every Sunday, wanted to bring awareness that this is happening to many more homeless people in Wichita than just them.
Throughout spring and the end of the summer, ShowerUp deploys its mobile trailers every Sunday and occasionally Wednesdays and Thursdays. During fall and winter, showers are only provided on Sundays from 8-11 a.m.
On the first Sunday of each month, ShowerUp also offers haircuts, courtesy of volunteers from Salon Lavish. Additionally, the salon serves as a drop-off site for ShowerUp donations on the west side of town.
Anyone can volunteer at ShowerUp by just showing up at the COTS parking lot or complete a volunteer form on their website. You can also donate through their website or in person at Church on the Street any Sunday
This article was republished here with the permission of: The Sunflower