Pope Francis Center in Detroit is renting a mobile shower unit for the homeless.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending consistent hand washing during the COVID-19 pandemic. While this seems easy enough for most, it is more difficult than it seems for Detroit’s homeless. And, this is why the nonprofit Pope Francis Center run by Father Tim McCabe is providing a mobile shower for those on the streets to use freely. Pope Francis is located at Saints Peter and Paul Jesuit Church and offers meals, showers and laundry services. However, its permanent stalls had to be shut down.
“That changed about a month ago when the coronavirus came to Michigan. The center closed its showers out of fear of coronavirus concerns,” McCabe said. He added that they’ve “been serving two hot meals from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. six days a week with patrons lined up about six feet apart outside the center. Portable toilets and wash stations, operable 24-7, line the side of the building.” After using the facility, patrons will also be offered new clothing supplied by the center.
The portable shower unit was brought in for use on April 9, 2020. The unit has six total showers and is set up at a University of Detroit Mercy School of Law parking lot since the school is currently closed. Across the street there are tents with heaters and food where those looking to use the shower can wait for their turn.
“The idea of mobile showers arose when the city of Detroit reached out to see about getting access to showers again,” said city spokesperson John Roach. “With a $25,000-a-month rental from UnitedRentals based in Akron, Ohio, and help from the Detroit Fire Department to connect the water” this goal was accomplished.
City official have also sent out street care to aid the homeless who remain without shelter. About half of the 2,100 chronically homeless people in 2019 were sheltered, according to city data.
“The Pope Francis Center primarily works with unsheltered homeless people,” McCabe said. He added that “within ten minutes of the opening, the center had a waiting list for twenty people to shower…It’s about giving dignity. As this virus, this pandemic, happens and all the shutdowns – they feel even more invisible, they feel like nobody’s looking out for them. That they know we’re here for them matters…One of the wealthiest countries in the world should be able to treat its homeless people, including those suffering from mental illness and those suffering from addiction, in more of a humane way.”
The goal is to provide showers four days a week for people such as Frank Ferris, 53, who became unsheltered after his home burnt down. “It’s the first one I took in about a month,” he said, echoing the sentiments of many others.
Michigan’s stay-at-home order shut down nonessential businesses, including schools, places of worships, and many shelters. The virus has been even more people on the streets after losing jobs and homes. Some of the individuals using the showers did not become homeless until the virus hit. McCabe said the center is asking for donations through its website at popefranciscenter.org.