Faith-based nonprofit organization Friends of the Carpenter is opening new shower and laundry trailers at its west Vancouver day center in an expansion of its services for homeless and low-income people. Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle cut the red ribbon on Thursday in a symbolic opening of the trailer facilities.
The shower trailer includes two shower stalls, and the laundry trailer has four sets of washers and dryers. Both are free to whomever needs them.
“We get people coming in all the time, particularly folks that are houseless,” said Tod Thayer, Friends of the Carpenter’s executive director. “Before they ask for clean underwear, socks, T-shirts, that type of thing, they’ll ask if we have a shower because they may not have showered for two or three weeks.”
The organization will open its shower trailer from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays beginning Oct. 26. Those wishing to use the showers can go to the Friends of the Carpenter Friendship Center at 1600 W. 20th St. on Wednesdays and sign up for a spot.
Thayer anticipates that high demand for the showers will lead to the shower trailer eventually opening several days per week. “We will definitely begin one day a week just to kind of get the kinks out,” he said. “But I think very shortly we’ll be moving to several days.”
The laundry trailer will open as soon as the Friends of the Carpenter staff is able to connect the appliances to electricity. “It requires 50 amps to run the dryers,” said Board President Wendy Wright. “I don’t have that kind of power out here yet. So we’re evaluating how we best get the 50 amps out to the dryers.”
Charles Hanset from Recovery Cafe of Clark County was at the event on Thursday. He sometimes brings people in need to Friends of the Carpenter’s day center, and can personally attest to the importance of having access to showers and laundry.
“When I was homeless out there and I needed a shower, there wasn’t nothing. So you were just gross. It was a physical and emotional thing, more than just the physical part of it,” Hanset said. “It’s a blessing to have this here for our community.”
Many people experiencing homelessness have jobs and need to look presentable, he added. “To be able to get a shower before they can go to work and be around other employees that don’t even know that they’re homeless — it’s definitely a godsend.”
The trailers were funded by donations from the Rowley Family Foundation, the Firstenburg Foundation and Bill Berry, a private citizen who is one of the Friends of the Carpenter’s major donors, Thayer said. The laundry trailer cost about $40,000 and the shower trailer cost about $25,000.
In addition to the trailers opening, the event included a ceremony dedicating the day center’s prayer room to Elizabeth and Leonard Cebula, a married couple who donated to the organization.
When Elizabeth Cebula died last year, she left a bequest in her will to Friends of the Carpenter, which has enabled the organization to renovate its building after an electrical fire caused damage last year.
“She was always one of those people that encouraged me to do good, and I hope that she’s smiling at us,” Wright said during the prayer room dedication ceremony.
The prayer room is a place where the organization’s low-income and homeless guests, as well as volunteers, can go for a quiet space to sit. Providing space like this, along with the new laundry and shower trailers, allows Friends of the Carpenter to serve its guests in a dignified and welcoming way.
“When we get them in here and they’re sitting at a table, and we can begin to build trust with them, we can then refer them to other resources,” Thayer said. “We’ve been very successful in being able to get people off the street, get people where they need to be to be self-sufficient, just by bringing them in, building a community, talking with them.”
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