The UK’s first shower unit for homeless people has just been unveiled in Bournemouth.
A local charity, Hope for Food, designed the shower on wheels to be able to provide enough energy for eight three-minute showers. The unit also contains dressing gowns, towels and new clothes.
The Shower Machine, as it has been named, is a welcome addition to Hope for Food’s mobile laundry service, which is known as the Clean Machine.
Hope for Food founder Claire Matthews came up with the idea in the hope of offering Bournemouth’s homeless community a complete laundering and cleaning service – something most of us take for granted.
Now, people with no fixed address will be able to make use of the hot shower while washing their clothes in the Clean Machine, which also contains a microwave and a kettle.
Matthews told the Bournemouth Echo:
I thought about the Clean Machine and one guy said to me, ‘I’ve got clean clothes but I’m still dirty. What do I do now?’
So I thought, ‘We need a shower’. I know there are other showers in Bournemouth but they don’t like walking too far. So, the concept is, while they’re washing their clothes, they can have a shower.
The unit has proved popular with the homeless community and was made possible following a £35,000 donation from John B Windsor-Pleydell who had heard about the charity and wanted to contribute towards the shower van.
Sadly, Windsor-Pleydell died before he was able to see the van launch, but the side of the vehicle bears his name in honour of his generosity.
He’d heard about the work of Hope for Food, a charity which hosted more than 100 people for Christmas dinner this year and provided more than 700 hampers for families living in poverty.
It is more than double the total handed out last December.
But Hope For Food schools and community liaison officer, Sam Langdown, doesn’t think the increasing numbers of service users should be cause for alarm, saying it could simply be down to increased awareness of Hope for Food services.
However, research by homeless charity Crisis indicates 24,000 people in Britain will have spent the festive period sleeping rough.
Hope for Food is just one of many charities relied upon nationwide to provide the most basic care and services to those who are living on the streets of the UK, filling the gaps left by government support.
Undeniably, the housing crisis, universal credit and austerity measures of years gone by have left the situation looking bleak for a lot of young people suffering with abuse, relationship breakdowns, and other issues which cause them to become homeless.
More worryingly, homelessness is increasingly affecting young people. Official figures show the number of young people sleeping rough in England has risen by almost a third (29 per cent) between 2016 and 2017.
In London there is more than double the number of young people aged 25 and under without a home.
This is creating an ever-widening gulf between young people’s experiences at Christmas, warn the UK’s young people’s homeless charity, Centrepoint.
Meanwhile, it is initiatives like Hope for Food – and their Shower and Cleaning Machines – which help make the holidays a little less bleak for so many vulnerable members of society.
Rough sleepers in the area will be able to use the shower unit when it visits Richmond Hill St Andrew’s URC Church in St Stephen’s Road one day a week.
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