Street Showers: Helping Bring Dignity To Others
Showers For Everyone
Over the last 3 years, Streetside Showers has provided “Radical Hospitality” to the suburban homeless in north Texas (54% are working families with multiple jobs and just can't afford an apartment). They have served over 11,000 showers at their 7 mobile shower locations and provided the many hygiene needs of every individual they meet -- including a clean, safe, and welcoming environment for every single guest. FHF Founder, Shannon McLinden, learned about this organization during a city hall meeting, where she went to protest a highway that was being considered, that would wipe out the FarmHouse Fresh Sanctuary. After she spoke, Lance Olinski stood up to plead with the city for a permit to allow his mobile shower units to park in a donated church lot to help suburban homeless families. It was eye opening that while one nonprofit fought to keep their land, another was fighting to create a new beginning for so many. So, the FarmHouse Fresh team organized to meet Lance in person to make a donation of hand creams, body washes and sanitizers, and to spend the morning learning more about what the community can do to help.
Love & Care For People
Streetside Showers has 7 weekly locations in north Texas -- Frisco, McKinney, Plano, Sherman, Denison, Lewisville, and Garland. They are a weekly shower stop that's open rain or shine.
The idea came to founder, Lance Olinski, who was in a gas station bathroom and a man in McKinney was experiencing homelessness. He was using the bathroom to wash and shave his face. "I didn’t expect my life to change course. But I was bothered in a good way. Here we are - we live in McKinney, Texas, one of the nicest places in the country - and there are folks like this who need help. Everyone deserves to shower. It’s such a basic human need.” Read below his incredible story of how Streetside Showers came to be.
I'M NOT A HOMELESS EXPERT. I'M JUST A GUY PAYING ATTENTION WHO SAW A NEED AND DECIDED TO ASK, 'HOW DO WE DO IT?
- Lance Olinski, Founder Streetside Showers
The Full Story
Throughout his life, Lance Olinski has always wanted to help people. Whether it was during his 29 years as a Pastor and eventually an Ordained Minister or during his childhood sitting with someone alone in the cafeteria, Lance has always had the drive to help those who need it most in any way he can. Married for 30 years, Lance credits his wife, 5 kids, and soon to be 4 grandkids (in August) as his biggest supporters.
When Lance moved to McKinney, Texas, 16 years ago that motivation to help others continued, but this time outside of the Church. “I had so many great experiences working in the church, but I decided to take it outside those walls and see how I can really serve and meet our community’s needs.”
While getting gas at a local gas station, Lance witnessed a man trying to bathe himself in the bathroom sink. A basic human need that is so often taken for granted, it changed Lance’s life forever. “That’s when it really hit me, wow, this is real and it’s a problem.” After that day, Lance started researching the idea of mobile showers and the many people suffering from homelessness. Before he knew it, he was in downtown San Francisco being trained by their sister organization, Lava Mae, and their philosophy of “Radical Hospitality.” For anyone new to the term, Lance explains “Radical Hospitality” as such: “We go to them. We bring hospitality to them on the street... everything we do has a purpose and that is to restore hope and dignity to people’s lives.”
Streetside Showers -- “Bringing Hope to Those Who Need It Most” was born. “I didn’t invent the wheel, I just brought the idea back to Texas. Started the 501(c)(3) and raised the money for the first trailer.” The nonprofit now has 4 trailers that move around the communities daily. Over the last 3 years they have provided over 11,000 showers at their 7 mobile shower locations and provided the many hygiene needs of every individual they meet. Each person gets a full 20 minutes in a unit that is equipped with a shower, vanity and bathroom sink "as nice as you would find in a home." They provide a clean, safe, and welcoming environment for every single guest by ensuring the trailers are cleaned to hospitality standards before each guest. “We use hospital grade disinfectant with hydrogen peroxide that is safe on humans and the environment.” Hygiene kits are also provided to guests to take with them after their visit to one of the mobile shower stations. These bags include, but are not limited to, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, soap, new socks, and underwear. In addition, Lance partners with many local churches and other nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping those suffering from homelessness. By doing so, not only do the guests have access to a hot shower, but they also get a free meal and an array of clothes for any individual who might need it. They outfitted a mobile store with clothing, so guests get to take what they need. "To see people coming out feeling new again... I get very emotional. Everything we do is about restoring dignity. All these guests are celebrities. We treat them like celebrities."
The 1,200 people they reach in Collin County alone suffering from homeless were not able to access public bathrooms or water fountains due to COVID-19 restrictions. This however did not slow down operations for Streetside Showers. “After COVID-19 hit no one knew what to do. They shut down every public facility these people would normally have access to. People were walking up to me asking for water and if they could use the bathroom.” As a result, Streetside Showers doubled their efforts to reach people desperate for basic human needs. Today, they are beginning to return to normal with more volunteers feeling safe to return, as well as public operations opening back up.
It is clear after meeting Lance that homelessness is affecting so many in our communities - even in suburbs where you might not see working families struggling. “There’s so many reasons to homelessness. People fall on hard times, tragedy, job loss, illness, one paycheck away from losing everything.” According to Lance, 54% of their guests have a job but cannot afford the cost of housing, “Every community needs to take care of their people. Citizens in your community need your help. By creating awareness in every community, what follows is more development of basic assistance. For example, by creating a Day Center where folks can come in, shower, do laundry, and use the internet to apply for jobs, we can change the problem.”
Lance said the best way to help their nonprofit is to:
1. Donate financially
2. Hold a clothing drive – for underwear, socks (thinner type & ankle height in summer, thick tall socks in the winter), flipflops, shoes.
3. Volunteer - visit their website: Streetsideshowers.com to find information on helping to roll socks, package hygiene kits, and help onsite cleaning bathrooms and organizing.
And for more information on their sister organization as well, “Radical Hopspitality” visit: Lavamaex.org