A new mobile shower program opening in Burnaby this week hopes to bring a little more dignity into the lives of people who are homeless.
Operated by the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby, the program will run Thursday mornings between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. at the Neighborhood Church —formerly known as the Southside Community Church — at 7135 Walker Ave.
Executive director Carol-Anne Flanagan says the initiative hopes to address the stigma that people without homes experience in their daily lives.
Flanagan said having the opportunity to shower not only improves health and hygiene but also self-esteem.
"There's always stigma attached to homelessness, although some of our homeless actually have work, they have steady jobs, but there's nowhere for them to wash up."
The society has a grant of $104,000 from the Union of B.C. Municipalities to operate the program. The initiative is the first of its kind in Metro Vancouver, with the only other free mobile shower in the Lower Mainland located in Abbotsford.
The mobile facility, which was manufactured by Canadian company Niu Toilet, contains two units that can run simultaneously, each equipped with a shower, toilet and sink. Patrons will have 15 minutes to shower, and the stalls will be cleaned between uses. The trailer also features disinfecting UV lights.
Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley said the program will address a gap in existing services for homeless people in Burnaby.
"It gives them a sense of dignity, they're able to come somewhere and get washed and no one's asking them questions about who or what they are," said Hurley.
The program will be run by volunteers, at the same time and location as the society's outreach centre.
The outreach program offers resources such as meals, clothing, pet food, harm-reduction supplies, haircuts and access to a nurse practitioner and other outreach workers.
It will also offer toiletries and clean socks to patrons when possible, according to Flanagan.
Flanagan says eventually they hope to bring the mobile showers to other locations in Burnaby, including Central Park and Kensington Park.
Hurley said the city of Burnaby will track the initiative to see where more showers are needed in the future.
"I think this is going to be a great initiative for many of those who are living on the street or are living in precarious situations … they can get clean in a respectful manner."
The program is launching with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, and will begin operating Thursday.