We all have one thing in common in our lives nowadays: a degree of uncertainty. The advent of COVID-19 means that we’re unable to make solid plans and our usual summer activities have been disrupted. Nobody knows exactly what a month — or a week — from today will look like.
Luckily, most of us have some degree of familiarity in this sea of change that we can rely upon. For instance, many of us can still count on the basics we take for granted, such as having a place to rest our heads at night and having a spot to freshen up and take a shower. Sure, our initial summer vacation plans may have gotten canceled, but at least we have a home to relax in and create a haven for ourselves.
Imagine not having that home right now. Experiencing homelessness is never easy, but think about being without a home amidst a pandemic.
Even before the virus hit, Scott Glazer wanted to utilize his skills to ease the lives of people without homes. Glazer, inspired by a project in which his daughter was involved, aimed to provide an important but often overlooked service — access to a private, clean, hot shower.
Glazer bought a large van, outfitted it with two shower rooms, and created Project Fresh Start. Living without a home is difficult, but being able to shower can refresh the mind as well as the body, helping to restore dignity into people’s lives
According to Glazer, his daughter Riley came up with the idea for Project Fresh Start. “She previously worked with a mobile shower unit for the homeless on a mission trip in Tennessee. At that same time, I was looking to start a handyman outreach to help the elderly and impoverished with any home repairs that were needed.” He adds that for a family that centers itself around faith, “building a mobile shower bus seemed like a perfect way for us to utilize the skills we were blessed with to serve and minister to those in need.”
Currently, the van (Glazer also refers to it as a bus) is limited to going to places where it can hook up directly to a water hose and electricity. However, Glazer’s goal is for the van to pull a trailer and a generator. That way, the van can reach tent cities and other places without hookups. Hot water is not an issue, thanks to the van’s onboard propane heater.
The two separate, private rooms in the van both contain a shower and sink. Hygiene products such as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, skin cream, bar soap, shaving kits, and toothbrushes are also provided. In addition, clean underwear, socks, reading glasses, hats, face masks, belts, and hygiene kits are available as needed.
Community response to Project Fresh Start has been positive. “Whether people take a shower or just want hygiene items and new underwear, we feel appreciated by so many,” says Glazer. “We are meeting new people, hearing their stories, and building relationships. So many people see us coming and offer to help us get set up and ready to serve. It’s a very rewarding experience.”
Of course, COVID-19 brought about changes for Project Fresh Start — and more demand. Glazer explains, “Initially, we planned to take the bus out once a month mainly due to expenses and our available time. Due to COVID, many of the homeless shelters and food kitchens had to close their doors and not allow anyone inside. This left many people without access to bathrooms and showers. So we are currently operating once a week instead of once a month.”
Usually, Project Fresh Start also offers haircuts from a licensed cosmetologist. Unfortunately, haircuts have been suspended for now but not forever.
Glazer points out that people can get involved with the project in a variety of ways:
“Each week that we take the bus out, our hygiene supplies are quickly depleting,” he says. “Any items that are not donated, we typically need to purchase. Donations of hygiene supplies, clothing, or monetary donations are greatly appreciated. For anyone wanting to be hands-on, volunteers are more than welcome to join us when we take the bus out every Friday. Anyone that can cut hair and wishes to volunteer would be one of our biggest needs at the moment.”
Another specific way that Glazer suggests people can help is to donate toward the purchase of bus passes for those who need transportation to the Fresh Start van.
Glazer notes that people “can be as much a part of it as you feel led to. We are a 501c3 organization and looking for board members/owners to make Project Fresh Start as much theirs as anyone else’s.” Though Project Fresh Start is “starting small,” the hope is for the program to become “so much more than being able to offer showers. Our grand vision would be for us to be able to offer temporary housing, education, and rehabilitation.”