Charlotte woman says portable shower will provide dignity, opportunity for homeless neighbors

Helping the homeless in a new way

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - For one Charlotte woman, an idea to help people who are homeless is turning into big change.

A simple need met, Laureen Jenkins says, could help people get jobs and, eventually, find homes.

“This is about dignity and a basic human right,” she says.

The idea was sparked after a conversation with a man she met who was homeless.

“I just asked him, when was the last time he had taken a shower,” she says. “And he said it had been about two weeks, and my heart sunk and I felt convicted.”

The impact of her conversation lasted when she got into her car, to drive away.

“I passed a food truck, and all of a sudden this lightbulb went off,” she says. “We can put food on trucks, so why can’t we put showers on trucks.”

That was a year and a half ago. Now, research, fundraising, and blueprints later, and her conviction is turning into something real – something called Project Outpour.

“We’re coming to you,” she says. “And we’re eliminating barriers such as money and transportation.”

Soon homeless neighbors will line up outside a portable shower trailer, which is 18 feet long, heated, with two private bathrooms. There will be a weekly schedule where the trailer will always set up, so people who use it know when and where to expect it.

Harley Crawford says she has been on the street for three years, and this idea could be life-changing for people in that situation.

“We could get clean and not have to worry about catching any type of disease or anything,” Crawford says.

And, she says, it could be a motivation.

“[People could be] more confident, like oh, I can do this, I can get a job,” she says.

For Jenkins, that’s what this is about – to help people in Mecklenburg County move out of homelessness.

“How am I supposed to go out on that job interview if I haven’t had a shave in a couple of months, my nails are long and dirty, you know, and if I stink,” Jenkins says.

She has support already from the city and county, beginning to find places like local churches to park once the wheels get moving.

During her research, Jenkins volunteered with a group doing something similar in San Francisco. She won’t forget what she heard, there.

“Your demeanor is different,” she remembers telling a man using the service. “And he said, yeah, I actually feel like someone now because I’m clean. That is so powerful.”

Jenkins raised about $50,000 in the past year to make the trailer happen. She’s now just waiting for it to arrive from the manufacturer in Chicago, and her biggest need is still a truck that can haul it once it gets here.

People who want to help Jenkins or contact her can do so at her website www.projectoutpour.org.

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