For local unsheltered populations, hygiene is often among their most pressing needs. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been an easy way to bring something as simple as a hot shower to many of Skagit County’s unhoused residents. Until now.
Skagit Connections, with the assistance of PeaceHealth United General Medical Center and other local partners, will soon roll out a four-unit mobile shower trailer. Skagit Connections purchased the $60,000 trailer last spring, after Executive Director Aaron Mountain took a trip to Elkhart, Indiana, a hub for recreational vehicle and trailer manufacturers.
After examining various options, Skagit Connections ordered a trailer but had to wait until October 2021 to receive it, about a month later than initially anticipated, due to recent national supply-chain disruptions.
The trailer is capable of collecting rainwater and will utilize sewer access dump sites to get rid of wastewater.
The trailer will be towed by a refurbished truck donated by Community Action of Skagit County that will carry supplies like towels and clothing for patrons, in addition to chemicals used to sanitize the showers between uses.
Overall, the project has been two years in the making, from conception to generous fundraising efforts by PeaceHealth and other local organizations. PeaceHealth put $10,000 into the project, while also helping attract additional investors. “For us, it was an easy ‘yes’ to invest in a project like this, it’s about taking care of the whole-person,” says Kelli Baker, community outreach coordinator for Sedro-Woolley’s PeaceHealth United General Medical Center. “Before this, we heard from our partners that some individuals had gone more than four months without a shower.”
Prior to the pandemic shower options were limited, and they all required transportation. With COVID-19 precautions, the primary location—Rasar State Park—closed, requiring service organizations to send unhoused patrons out of county to pay-per-use showers.
The new mobile shower unit will be able to travel to serve some of Skagit County’s most vulnerable, not only offering hot showers, but hopefully collaborating with other nonprofits in “pop-up” resource villages that will offer food, healthcare and housing help as well. Mountain says they hope to offer pop-up villages at least once a month. In the meantime, Skagit Connections is working on the trailer’s finishing touches, which include installing back-ordered water hoses.
A firm start date for the service is yet to be determined, but Mountain says a weekly schedule of locations for the showers is being planned. They include Concrete, where the trailer will stop each Tuesday to coincide with the city’s local food bank operations, and at Mount Vernon’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church, a location they hope can primarily serve those living in vehicles.
Skagit Connections is also working to pair the showers with free haircuts given by professional, licensed volunteers. . Mountain recently purchased a 10-foot-by-10-foot tent for a salon area. Clients will be able to make online reservations for showers and/or haircuts, or just drop in.
An open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on Friday, December 3, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the parking lot of Bethany Covenant Church in Mount Vernon, allowing members of the public to see the shower unit ahead of its official use. A benefit concert will follow at 7 p.m.
Skagit Connections is also looking for volunteers for both shower and haircut operations, and anyone interested in encouraged to sign up. “We’re looking for people who really have a heart for the people who are unsheltered and houseless to serve as volunteers,” Mountain says. “We’re looking for qualified volunteers that can really help our clients connect to the other community resources.”