Nothing feels quite so good as a hot shower at the end of a long day.
For the homeless, though, access to basic hygiene such as a shower can be a challenge.
The Salvation Army Hobbs is nearing completion of a project started more than two years ago to address that need. A mobile hygiene trailer arrived in town this week, which Corps Officer Lt. Shannon Brown says will serve showers and more to the homeless community in Hobbs.
The trailer — part of the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services division — features six self-contained shower stalls. Beginning next month, people will be able to sign up to get cleaned up and more.
Located in the warehouse area of the former Salvation Army Family Store near the intersection of Main and Fowler streets in Hobbs, the hygiene station will also offer access to a washer-dryer setup to wash clothes and a waiting area, all in a safe and secure facility, Brown said. The services will be free of charge to users.
As part of the preparations to open the hygiene station, the Salvation Army is teaming up with United Way of Lea County for a Day of Caring event from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. They’re asking members of the community to volunteer some of their time to paint and put other finishing touches on the area housing the trailer.
“We want it to be comfortable, (with) a homey touch,” Brown said. “It just needs a little face lift in there.”
Bringing a hygiene station to serve Hobbs’ homeless community started with an idea in 2019, a collaboration between former Corps Officer Maj. Lisa Smith and Salvation Army board member Lorena Castillo, who works with United Way of Lea County. The women worked to secure a UWoLC Innovation Grant for more than $22,000 to get the project off the ground.
The original goal of the project was to build a permanent hygiene facility with showers, restrooms, laundry facilities and more. Project delays put those bigger plans on the back burner, but definitely didn’t cancel them.
“We have a temporary fix,” Brown said. “This is not a permanent solution, but it’s something.”
The trailer, which went in this week, is part of the Salvation Army’s Disaster Relief Services network and is owned by the national organization. That means it could be pulled from its new home to respond to a need for hygiene facilities at the site a disaster virtually anywhere around the region.
“It’s not a matter of if, but of when” the local Corps could be called upon to surrender the trailer, albeit on a temporary basis, Brown said.
Brown and the local Corps still want a permanent hygiene station, whether at the former Thrift Store or elsewhere, she said. An alternative would be for the local group to purchase a shower trailer of its own, which could be taken to different parts of town as needed.
Brown knows first-hand the frustration and almost desperation the homeless can experience. She spent time on the streets when she was younger. Being able to take a shower and wash her clothes would have been a blessing, she said.
“It would have been nice,” Brown said. “It would have meant dignity to me, it would have given me hope, just to feel human again I guess.”
Castillo, who now chairs the Salvation Army board, said a permanent facility was part of the original grant plans. Regardless, having the hygiene station is still important.
“The only time I don’t take a shower regularly is when I go camping and I feel terrible,” she said. “But that’s a choice. The homeless don’t have that choice. It’s like the water does something for you, rejuvenates the spirit.”
And the hygiene station hopefully will become part of a larger community collaboration. Castillo said the board has reached out to other groups, including Isaiah’s Kitchen, which helps feed people in need.
“The vision we had was like a center of hope,” Castillo said. “People could come in, get a shower, get some clean clothes or get their clothes washed and start to feel good about themselves, then go down the street and get a hot meal.
“We still want a permanent hygiene center, as a board. But his is definitely going to help, eliminate some of that stress the clients feel.”