Cottage Grove Sentinel | City, Community Sharing debut mobile shower facility

Cottage Grove Sentinel | City, Community Sharing debut mobile shower facility

The city’s new mobile shower unit made its debut in Cottage Grove last week, offering a fresh option for those without access to a way to wash up.

Getting the shower unit to town was a months-long process as a partnership between the City of Cottage Grove and the nonprofit Community Sharing.

While the city accessed about $60,000 of CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act grant funds to purchase the trailer, Community Sharing Executive Director Mike Fleck said his nonprofit is anticipating an initial investment of around $25,000 of its own funds toward the facility and preparing the site.

On July 2, there was a soft opening of the mobile shower with a sparse turnout. Though just one guest used the facility, the soft opening also provided an opportunity for volunteers to familiarize themselves with the operation and equipment.

The mobile showers will be available every week on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Community Sharing at 1440 Birch Avenue. 

Technically, the city owns the two-shower unit and Community Sharing is serving as a steward of the facility with some maintenance responsibilities divided between the two.

As a caretaker for the facility, Community Sharing is currently limiting access to the showers to once a week due to a shortage of volunteers, though Fleck said an uptick in staffing could increase the amount of access days.

“I will run it as many days a week as I can maintain volunteers,” he said.

In addition to two showers, the facility includes amenities such as a toilet, sink, soap, air conditioning and a heater, giving it year-round usability. Community Sharing is also working to secure a constant supply of fresh socks and underwear for visitors.

The model of trailer was chosen in particular for its ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) feature, as one of the shower units has a gently sloping ramp and extra space inside.

The trailer is currently hooked to Community Sharing’s electrical and sewage system. With a meter installed on the trailer, the city will foot the water bill for the facility, said Fleck, but he did not speculate on the monthly cost. The nonprofit will shoulder the extra electricity cost.

In case of emergencies, the “mobile” feature of the showers can be employed, allowing it to service sites for a limited time with 300 gallons of water.

Another potential use of the facility is the warming shelter site set up earlier this year at 224 N 12th St. When winter comes around again, Fleck said the showers could prove a useful addition to the warming site populated by Pallet shelters as plumbing and electrical hookups are already available.

Again, however, the capacity for Community Sharing to provide access to the trailer and run the warming shelter would be dependent on the amount of volunteers the nonprofit can secure, Fleck noted.

“From a staffing standpoint … it’s more challenging,” he said of relying on volunteers to staff the site.

As a new facility, rules for shower use are still being developed. Fleck said he is looking at other agencies who run similar facilities and is finding a compromise between the looser and stricter formats in order to maximize accessibility.

“And as I run across problems, I’ll just adapt,” he said.

The impact of the shower on those with hygienic needs is bound to be significant.

“It’ll be huge,” said Fleck. “I would assume it would really help with self-esteem.”

Providing an opportunity to stay hygienic can play a crucial role in many whose living situation does not afford such a luxury. Other showering options can cost precious dollars which the homeless and unemployed cannot spare.

“I would say there are between 30 and 40 truly homeless folks … in our community year-round,” speculated Fleck. “But that number can go up seasonally.

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