BALTIMORE — A new resource in downtown Baltimore is changing the lives of the city's homeless, starting with something you might take for granted: a warm shower.
"We are providing showers to our homeless brothers and sisters, unhoused guests. We've been operating about three weeks now, and it's been a great start so far, but busy," said Generosity Global founder Rich Akwo.
He came up with the idea to fundraise for a trailer to provide free showers to people who need it, called Generosity Shower.
"One of the needs we uncovered was the need to take a shower in a safe place; where they can feel safe, where they can have privacy and where it's clean," said Akwo.
"Sometimes you're in there [shelter bathrooms] with other people and they have a line up shower so that gets weird. So here, it's like your grandma's house or your mom's house. You go in, there’s a nice little thing on the wall, tiling, wood floor and nice shower curtain. It feels like home," said Cam Oronson-Williams, who has used the showers a few times.
They park right outside of Healthcare for the Homeless on Fallsway Tuesdays and Thursdays. They give out towels and each stall is equipped with soap, shampoo, conditioner and a hair dryer.
"Going through this rough patch and all, it's good to get cleaned up for job interviews stuff like that," said Joseph Andre, who has used the showers a few times.
He and his wife Cam also say it helps return a sense of normalcy to their relationship.
"My husband looked at me like I was a new woman because he hadn't seen me clean in so long. For us, at least, as a homeless couple, when you can get a shower, that's your date day because you look nice, you feel nice, so you go and do something nice. You don't need money to have a nice time," said Oronson-Williams.
Every shower also gets cleaned out after each use, and they can do up to 120 showers a day. It's all run by Akwo and Generosity Global volunteers. Aside from this new project, the Columbia-based nonprofit supports clean water projects globally and has operated in Baltimore for eight years, hosting Selfless Saturday programs the second Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 300 Holliday St.
Over the weekend, they also stepped in to help neighbors in need at Poe Homes, who went without water for nine days.
"We ended up delivering close to 60 showers on that day, and there were so many smiles on their faces," said Akwo.
In addition to a warm shower, they give out hygiene kits with razors, deodorant, undergarments and water bottles. Akwo said the goal of the whole experience is to give people the tools and confidence to go out and improve their lives.
"Our overall mission is to get people from a place of crisis, point A, to a place of self sufficiency, which is point B," said Akwo.
"It helps make you feel like you're still somebody out there. It's a good feeling," said Andre.
"A nice, warm shower makes my self-esteem feel better. When I'm on the bus, I don't have to worry about you smelling my arms," said Wile, who has used the shower.