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Cleaning the homeless

Offer secure, private, single person showers at low or no cost.
  (+61, -1)(+61, -1)(+61, -1)
(+61, -1)
  [vote for,

The hardest thing for homeless people is getting clean. Without a way to wash, the chance that you will get a job is next to nothing.

Having been homeless (by choice, I lived in my truck for a year to save money and get out of debt) I know how hard it is to find a shower. You can wash your clothes (laundrymat), feed your face (fast food) and find some sort of shelter (overpass, box, car, etc...) without a home, but getting cleaned up is darn hard. I was able to get a health spa membership, but most can not.

Many homeless people have some sort of mental problem. Nothing serious, just low I.Q., mild paranoia, depression, etc... nothing that will get them into a metal hospital or jail, but enough to keep them out of a job or a steady living arrangement. Probably not ever going to get off the streets.

But lots of them are just blue collar workers who had some sort of bad luck and havent been able to find a way out of it yet. Once you're down, the climb is hard.

Staying clean can reduce health problems, raise self esteem and really increase the chance of employment. Society puts such a premium on cleanlyness, and will give out condoms, clean needles, cash and food to the homeless, but a simple shower could make a much greater difference.

Just take any space with drainage and water available: From an empty lot to an unused garage, and set up a series of small spaces from wire fence or other metal "security" type barrier. They should be large enough to hold a shower and have a small dry area outside it to keep clothes, etc.. in. Old sheets or other cloth can provide some privacy and a plastic tarp can surround the shower.

Each space should lock and some staff would need to ensure that only one person goes in at a time and provide some means of keeping a time limit. E.g. only x minutes of warm water and then the entire space gets sprayed down cold.

PVC plumbing and low water use heads. Doesn't need to be fancy.

Open early in the AM for people who have to take a bus to the 9-5.

Cheap "shower shoe" flip-flops should be required to keep down on the spread of foot disease.

edited 08/20/2012 to change "The vast majority of homeless people..." into "Many homeless people..." in order to avoid the argument and focus on the real point of this idea.

James Newton, May 09 2004

Halfbakery: Freshen-Up http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Freshen-Up
A general-service public washroom. [jutta, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Queer Eye for the Homeless Guy http://www.halfbake...he_20Homeless_20Guy
[James Newton, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Housing idea http://www.halfbake.../idea/HomelessHotel
[James Newton, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Homeless computer work Break_20The_20Cycle
A related "help the homeless" idea. [James Newton, Jun 16 2006]

(?) Nelson NZ Superloo with shower http://www.thebathr...zealand/nelson.html
But it costs $1.00 for a shower [Pellepeloton, May 23 2007]

existing bakery product - Budget Inn Super_20Budget_20Inn
can be warped a bit into this idea [FlyingToaster, Dec 30 2007]

bus shower http://www.cbsnews....francisco-homeless/
vid bus shower [popbottle, Jul 21 2014]

Public Restrooms at the Vatican will include Showers for Homeless http://www.catholic...ies/cns/1404717.htm
Not a fan of the church, but the Pope apparently also sees the need. [James Newton, Nov 13 2014]

Hostels are a possible source of low cost showers http://www.hostels.com
Fixing a broken link previously posted by dpsyplc [James Newton, Nov 13 2014]

Statistics on Homeless Veterans http://nchv.org/ind...und_and_statistics/
49,933 veterans are homeless on any given night. [James Newton, Nov 13 2014]

Showers in a Bus https://www.faceboo...901/?type=2&theater
Using busses so the city can't evict the people who are helping [James Newton, Sep 30 2015]


       While shower shoes may be adequate in college dorms they would -not- be adequate here. Showers would need to be chemically sanitized -- not necessarily after each use, but regularly. This can be automated: use a separate sprayer and high pressure.   

       Vandalism of various sorts would also be a problem. Consider every nasty thing someone can do in, or to, a public toilet. All those can happen to a shower, too. A public shower needs to be recoverable quickly from a user who vomits in it, defecates in it, or just leaves trash in it.
fubarobfusco, May 10 2004

       Homelessness implies a breakdown of society. People are not supposed to be homeless. When someone is, it is because something has gone wrong. In a way, homelessness is like people taking their cars off road to get where they are going because the road is too crowded or just because they can.   

       Arranging businesses that cater to the homeless is like putting up traffic lights on the lots and yards people are cutting across. Traffic lights would facilitate and legitimize taking your car offroad. Homeless businesses facilitate the homeless lifestyle. I think it would be better to offer people more desirable alternatives to homelessness. Part of this might be makinging homelessness undesirable: flips sides of the same coin.   

       Instead of building a standalone shower business for homeless folks to use, a better soluton would be cheap communal housing with a shower in it. Which is called a shelter, and is baked.   

       Anyway, a freshly showered bone for your efforts.
bungston, May 10 2004

       Truck stops often have showers available.
waugsqueke, May 10 2004

       an apple croissant for making me think about it [JN].
neilp, May 10 2004

       How about a dog-shower for their dogs too? All the people seen on the streets in my area have dogs. The dog shower could include flea-killing shampoo (or the like).
dobtabulous, May 10 2004

       Maybe car washes could be modified to have a walk-through corridor for naked people.
phundug, May 10 2004

       We've done that one.   

       This is a good idea. Might even work a bit more high-end (like those fully automated for-pay toilets one sees in some places) - a shower space you can rent for 20 minutes for a few dollars; maybe near train or bus terminals.
jutta, May 10 2004

       You know, if a homeless guy were outside a pay shower, and asked me for money so he could use it, I'd pay the fare to let him in.
phundug, May 10 2004

       [bungston] what an odd annotation //Part of this might be makinging homelessness undesirable// last time i checked, it already was. people have been saying that helping the homeless only encourages vagrency for as long as it has existed. that is still wrong. you are right to say that shelters are better, but they are also more expensive. until there is enough money to run enough shelters for everyone, some will still be on the streets. this idea fills a much overlooked niche. stinking is a sure way of making people view you as a degenerate.
stilgar, May 30 2004

       Someone told me that in paris they have these public lavatories that self- sanatize after usage. it seems that this is a logical extension of that concept. Perhaps if you made it a multi use thing, shower, toilet and clothes washing (since the same people will need all three) it would be even better.
macrumpton, May 30 2004

       [bungston] nothing personal, but you should spend a year homeless before you can say things like that. I think the polite word for it is "un-informed" or "disconnected."   

       I don't think your view could be changed but are you seriously saying that denying the problem will make it better? Or that our current (shelter) solutions work?   

       In fact, very few shelters have any of the following - A) Available space - B) sufficent funding - C) showers that any human would want to use (most actually do NOT have working showers) - D) any reinforcement of the concept that you get what you pay for.   

       This last is the most important. Shelters foster homelessness by presenting an opportunity to live without pressure to better yourself.   

       The only way that this idea is baked is in "health clubs" in poor neighborhoods. They often sell memberships to the homeless who usually do no more than come in to use the showers. They screen to the "highest" standards because any hint that the homeless are showing with "real" people will cost them memberships from the "regular" clients. This is how I got my showers (or from friends) and I did try to work out, but I met many fellow homeless students, workers, and or mental patients who only came in to shower. The biggest complaint was them using the soap from the sink dispeners to wash themselves.
James Newton, Jul 17 2004

       Have you ever seen the movie Shower? It follows a Chinese family, in China, running a traditional public bath.   

       At the beginning of the movie we see a man walk into a smallish building. He is admitted into an amazing hi-tech shower, comparable to a car wash in that it has spinning brushes, jets of water everywhere, and air jets to dry the occupant when the shower's done. The shower is a stop on his way to work. He emerges from the shower clean, refreshed, and smartly dressed.
joeforker, Jul 20 2004

       [bungston], I beg to differ with you.   

       As has been pointed out before homelessness is already undesireable. I too was once placeless for a while and one issue with me was finding a place to shower before I went to work. Try being homesless and not showering for a week and see if you still have a job. It won't happen. I think this is a great idea.
wimp35, Apr 25 2005

       Vandalism would be a giant problem, but it is a really good, possibly workable, definitely improvable thought. Making homelessness undesirable would only attatch another stigma to homeless people, [bungston], who, by the way, don't necessarily *want* to be homeless.   

       I think it's a good idea because, as was said in the original idea, homeless people can't get off the streets fully and permanently without jobs, and you can't get a job if you're caked in grime. It's not about making things easier for the homeless (which, it seems to me, there's nothing particularly wrong with anyway) it's about making it easier for the homeless to get jobs. Always a good thing!   

       A freshly-washed croissant for you, [James Newton].
bookends, Jun 05 2005

       Of course the homeless dont really WANT to be homeless but nobody is willing to let them sit on the sofa all day getting drunk in front of the TV.
Jscotty, Sep 08 2005

       Restrooms with pay-per-minute showers are common on beaches, and although they are prone to vanalism they've more or less worked out easy-to-maintain designs without the need of an attendant (lots of concrete, not much to break). If it works for beaches (often with heavy homeless concentration), it should work for cities.
Worldgineer, Sep 08 2005

       We have the automated elf-cleaning toilets [jutta] mentions, but not for-pay. They're a lot cheaper to maintain than the old designs, so councils have been phasing them in as their existing stock degrades. Doesn't seem too difficult to incorporate a shower head and a dry clothing locker - maybe that could be coin-op.   

       One day I'd love to use one of those Japanese person-washes.
BunsenHoneydew, Sep 08 2005

       There's always free showers at beaches where people wash the sand off their bodies etc. but i guess there are more homeless people in big cities. and there are few beaches in big cities.
benfrost, Jan 21 2006

       excellent idea and excellent discussion [+].
Just to add my 2 cents ... some professional beggars would avoid this shower at all costs as it would detract from the "guilt/pity factor" that they require to make their living (no different than any other profession)
Would you give your change to a clean shaven, fresh smelling street person? For example here where I live is one man that sits in a wheelchair in front of a dumpster banging his semi-detached artificial leg on the pavement in front of him. When he needs to pee he simply unzips his pants and pees right there. Now I don't have facts to prove this, but I'm sure this man will end up getting more cash in a day than a clean smelling guy sitting quietly in his electric wheelchair framed by a nice park setting.
And this is how it should be, all I'm saying is that the showers will be used by those who "really" need them - so there is no worry of encouraging homelessness.
ixnaum, Jan 21 2006

       /I'm sure this man will end up getting more cash /   

       Dad put me through college with that schtick. He's pretty good, huh?
bungston, Jun 17 2006

       People in Paris shower?
RayfordSteele, Jun 20 2006

       Public bathhouses used to be popular when people didn't have showers at home. They are still popular in Japan, and I've heard the local homeless population in Tokyo is impeccably clean and tidy. They even sweep their tents on a daily basis.
kinemojo, Sep 03 2006

       And there you have it. The glory and splendour of both Japan, and Rome is based on an abundance of public bathing facilities.   

       Is providing public showers really going to encourage homelessness? Well, maybe a little, but let's be reasonable here, Would you rather have a few homeless that reek, or a few more homeless that smell nice? My sensitive nose argues that if they smell good, I don't care whether they live in a mansion or a storm drain.   

       My sensitive nose also argues that I would be far more likely to enjoy working with someone who smells good, and is reasonably competent, rather than working with good employees that smell bad. Having close associations with someone who does smell bad, I can also tell you that I am not alone in these opinons.   

       Will all the homeless ever shower regularly? No. I know quite a few people who do have homes but still refuse to shower regularly for unknown reasons, and as the homeless, in general, are not quite as successful, or able as those who have homes, we should not expect them to be cleaner.   

       All the same, we have public drinking fountains, public toilets, public parks, public pools, public gardens, and even public shelters. Why should a shower be so different?   

       I think the main reason there is such a difference is because the public opinion is that the Government should not charge taxes. While I must admit that most governments could stand to take some lessons in efficiently spending and accounting for the use of their money, I would be willing to pay a few extra bucks in taxes if it meant the guy on the bus next to me didn't have to stink up the whole aisle.
ye_river_xiv, Feb 07 2007

       Here in New Zealand some friendly councils provide cheap and clean facilities to have a shower. Palmerston North has free first shower for anybody but then it is $1.00. Locals abused this service I was told and they had to put the price up.   

       I often take a cold shower even it is not summer anymore. And then there are the sea, lakes and rivers providing they are not polluted by people living in houses ;)
Pellepeloton, May 23 2007

       Public swimming pools have showers here in New Zealand.   

       There is lot of hot water left for showers as most of the males at least don't have a shower before going to the pool!!!
Pellepeloton, May 23 2007

       I've worked in a shelter for over fifteen years now, and our showers have always worked. Keeping them working is my job. The mission across the street has functional showers, and the day room two blocks away has functional showers. Where are you that the shelters can't afford to keep their plumbing working?   

       I agree with [bungston] on the point of vandalism. I don't understand where the contempt comes from, but vandalism of facilities where services are provided free is a fact of life. I don't think charging for the service will change that, even if it's only a token fee.   

       Society provides those other things - condoms, needles etc. - because they are inexpensive. Bathing facilities are expensive, even if done in a minimalist fashion. Certainly they are less controversial than a condom or needle giveaway, but you can buy a boatload of condoms for the cost of just one shower and its concomittant infrastructural necessities.
elhigh, May 27 2007

       I remember my mother telling me that when she was a teacher at a school mainly consisting of aboriginal children, the local governments would always have problems with the personal hygiene of many of the people in the locality. What would happen is that because it was expensive to have a shower more than once or twice every few weeks (water often had to be trucked in), some kids and adults would not have showers or baths, and then they'd get horrible hygiene-related diseases, such as tracheoma (which commonly occurs in developing countries where the overwhelming majority have poor hygiene facilities), and the local government would have to cough up to pay for all these people with preventable illnesses. So, what the government did was provide free swimming facilities and swimming programmes, so whilst the kids may not exactly be clean all the time, the rate of diseases such as tracheoma would be quartered as the kids would be swimming, and hence get any dust and what have you out of their eyes and it would clean them up. It wasn't a great solution, but it was cheaper than just treating any illnesses resultant of poor hygiene.   

       I'm not sure how many of the homeless would be able to swim, but a similar tactic can be used here. I like this idea. Bun.
froglet, May 27 2007

       yes, bungston, because all homeless people are lazy bastards that want to be a burden on society.   

       Why don't they adapt a normal spend-work cycle like everyone else? Only a serious freak wouldn't want to be a good consumer and producer. If everyone else is doing it, thats good enough for me! Homeless people should be punished.
Voice, Oct 02 2007

       [Voice], I can't tell for sure if you're being serious or sarcastic. I hope it's the latter.   

       That said, there is a definite proportion of the homeless population that is sponging off the goodwill of everyone else. I wouldn't put it at more than 10% of our current caseload, but they're definitely there.
elhigh, Oct 03 2007

       I've always thought about 8-10% of the homeless just have a different system, and don't want to fit into normal society. There's always someone who will give them what they need to survive.   

       And then 90% are fucked up and unhappy, and only need a little bit of compassion to be a lot better off.   

       Bun for this idea.
nomocrow, Oct 03 2007

       Bun(+). I travelled around the US (17000 mi) for a couple months and showers are an issue, and I did have a health club membership and used it several times. I think more/all business' should also have showers available to employees. This would solve homeless and also jogger/biicycle issues. My old boss was a morning jogger and she had a terrible problem getting showered. I personally would ride my bike, except I would stink too much without showering afterwards.
MisterQED, Dec 26 2007

       I agree, this would definitely have NIMBY issues, so mobile versions would be better for that and to limit vandalism.
MisterQED, Dec 26 2007

       You definantly could steal free lumber (and build your shack 1 piece at a time) by hanging outside of the Home Depot [this stuff just gets compacted at the end of the day anyway].... plus, the Home Depot has hoses that you could sneak a spray if you made nice with the lot associates.... finally, there are always many contractors looking to employ amateur day labor's hanging around the HD. Havabun. [+]
quantum_flux, Dec 28 2007

       Security is pretty important here...most homeless people I see pushing shopping carts and the link won't take their eyes off their stuff for a minute, much less leave it to hop in the shower. Also it has to be pretty easy to jump someone when they are naked and vulnerable.
hooande, Dec 29 2007

       While grease and (non-toxic) dirt can provide a protective layer on skin, on clothing they just gum up the fibres which *reduces* insulating capacity.

       What's really needed is a shower cum laundry... and that's a bit more complex.

       Linked a previous idea for a budget-hotel... something like that... $.50/an hour or something, shower/washing machine/tv included... only thing is then there's no social aspect.
FlyingToaster, Dec 29 2007

       Good idea. I'm surprised at how many halfbakers have been homeless.
Flipmastacash, May 23 2008

       A just cause for a charity organization. US government would botch this one up, but...   

       - reduced cost for hospitals - ability to get a job interview, ride public transit, even read in a library - basic human need   

       I've never been in need. It's a little too much like health care: don't get sick, and everything is OK. Don't lose family, friends and job, and everything is OK.   

       Technical stuff- 1. cheap models- like beach showers or prison showers, minimal self cleaning and privacy; similar to 'bath houses' 2. telephone booths- one person at a time, some sterilization ability, noise, cold water etc. to force people out, removable floor to clear garbage, feces, etc.; dry locker inside is also purged once they leave; basic clothes wash option 3. car wash- moving conveyor encourages people to keep going through; maybe 20' of shower, valuables on a 'dry conveyor' nearby
Bcrosby, Aug 23 2008

       [Flipmastacash] - That would be the 'half' of 'halfbakery'
mylodon, Aug 23 2008

       Missed this one. (+)   

       I suppose when you are rich and bored of buying stuff for yourself, you could always start buying things for society.   

       If cold fusion is finally cracked, does this mean even the 'homeless' get a power share?
wjt, May 06 2009

       Solid sealed concrete construction, stainless on the wetted surfaces, the shower head fully embedded in the ceiling. Plumbing only accessible under heavy, locked, panels. Water set to a specific temperature with a fixed sensor to turn it on. That would deal with most vandalism issues. You might have to clean the walls periodically, but no real damage could be done.   

       An area large enough for the person to set down their stuff and disrobe, take the shower, an air dryer, and get dressed, with a door that remains locked for maybe a half hour would be plenty to make people feel secure enough to use it. And it wouldn't be to hard for the hot-water source to be able to provide a blast of steam in-between uses to sterilize the unit.   

       Of course, you could do what Utah has done. They realized they were spending more in ER visits and other expenses in dealing with the homeless than it cost to provide them with basic living facilities and an assigned social-worker. As of the latest reports, they've apparently managed to cut homelessness by something like 75%.
MechE, May 07 2014

       [Mech-E] would you happen to have budget numbers to match?
Voice, May 07 2014

       Assuming you mean on the Utah bit, not exactly. The reports I've seen, which are several months old, say about $15,000 for emergency care and short term programs and the like per individual per year, and about $12,000 for housing and the case worker.
MechE, May 08 2014

       Of course a proper solution consisting of providing cheap, durable homes to these people would be preferable. Maybe also jobs with living wages, but that is probably asking too much.
terryo, May 11 2014

       When there are thousands of homeless and Detroit is bulldozing thousands of houses something if very wrong.
Voice, Jul 22 2014

       Could Donald Trump not provide the materials necessary to sew all of the homeless people together in North America in order to create the coat to coat wall he so desperately wants to build?
xenzag, Sep 30 2015

       Maybe it's time to bring back the servant class. The Cyprus economy is/was in shambles, but the Greeks there still find a way to fly in Asian live-in maids.
4and20, Sep 30 2015

       A cinnamon bun for this long risen dough. Sure this must have been baked already?   

       If not, how about this: I like to jog/bike/hike to work but few years ago faced the inconvenience of not having shower facilities there. We had a toilet however. I'm familiar with sewing camping gear and sketched a portable watertight tent fabric 'shower bag' that would be just large enough to stand inside, would have a universal tap mounted shower hose and water saving head and an outlet tap. We then got showers so I never realized it, and also never realized the homeless use aspect.   

       It would be however: - easy to make. Any tent manufacturer could sew such a thing - cheap. Could end up at 30-100 dollars with standard retailer chain. - easy to carry: 1lb / size of a 32oz bottle - your own: enjoy it clean/dirty to your preference - safe to shower at any toilet: If you are reasonably clean, walk into McDonalds, eat a burger and go to toilet for a quick shower, chances are no one will even notice it.   

       // We have the automated elf-cleaning toilets // Wow
AK-74, Sep 30 2015


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