Homeless people and others in need can now get showers and laundry at spots around Ashland, all because of an anonymous donor who paid $12,500 for a mobile van that was retired from fire support service.
The big white shower van will live at Ashland Emergency Food Bank on Clover Lane, where it will be open Thursday afternoons. It gets towed Tuesday afternoons to United Methodist Church on the corner of Laurel and North Main streets. Hours are 1 to 5 p.m. La Clinica and Uncle Food's Diner also operate in the Methodist parking lot on those days.
"It's my first shower in two-and-a-half months and it feels wonderful," said Steve Boling, a homeless man who tends a vegetable garden and was waiting for laundry to dry Thursday. "It felt like my first-ever shower. You can't do this in the creek."
The 27-foot van celebrated its grand opening Thursday. It is administered by Ashland Community Resource Center, next door to the food bank, and in partnership with ACCESS Inc. and Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland.
The service offers laundry and shower soap, hot water, towels and washcloths. Stalls are disinfected after each shower, says resource center Manager Leigh Madsen.
The resource center plans to expand service to The Grove on East Main Street and the Ashland Recycling Center on Water Street in the near future, said Madsen, thus realizing a main goal of the center since its formation in February.
The vehicle was bought in Rogue River and was valued at $20,500, but the resource center was offered a bargain, Madsen said. It hooks into city water, and wastewater goes into the sewer. It has two showers, a changing room, laundry facilities and water heater.
"All they need to do is bring their dirty clothes and bodies and we do the rest," Madsen said.
Shower van operator Sangye Tenzin said the van is not just for homeless people but also "sheltered" people who may be low on funds or in danger of being homeless.
Observing the smooth operation of the new system, City Councilman Dennis Slattery said, "This is an act of generosity by donors, and any time you can help people improve the way that they want to improve, we all benefit. It helps the people most at risk — and not just the homeless."
"This will mean so much to the dignity of those we serve in Ashland," said ACCESS Support Services Director David Mulig.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.