A pop-up vaccination clinic coordinated with Shower the People on June 15, 2021.
Over 5,000 Showers Given!
In January of 2021 Shower the People hit the benchmark of giving 5,000 showers to the homeless in our community. This year we will continue to provide showers at our four current sites and will expand to one additional site in the near future. Stay tuned!
Volunteer Spotlight: Aracelli Astorga
Shower the People’s newest Board member, Aracelli Astorga, is Branch Manager of the San Luis Obispo Library and is Coordinating Librarian of SLO County’s Coastal Region which includes San Luis Obispo, Los Osos, Morro Bay and Cayucos Libraries.
Aracelli strongly believes in being welcoming and inclusive: in her work, in her service to others, in life. This core principle guides her policies and interactions with clients at the library, and shapes her commitment to those served by Shower the People.
Aracelli learned about Shower the People (STP) in July 2019, and contacted Gwen Watkins, STP’s Board President. They shared an interest in creating a new shower site in San Luis and the library, centrally located, seemed ideal. After getting approval from city and county, STP started offering showers at the SLO library later that summer – and has been there ever since. The library is one of STP’s busiest locations, showering 17 – 25 guests every Sunday.
Aracelli says she “truly appreciates Shower the People and all they do,” and wanted to be a part of their effort to bring hot showers to the unhoused throughout the county. Like her commitment to the library, her goal is to make services available to everyone. She says she is “honored to be on the board,” and the feeling is mutual. Aracelli is a hard worker, preferring to work behind the scenes. She brings fresh perspective, energy, and valuable expertise to the Board.
Operations Coordinator Update
As we start seeing light at the end of the COVID tunnel, we continue to still be COVID vigilant. We use the same highly effective shower sprays, wear masks and hazmat suits, and maintain social distances. Since our restart in June with the new protocols we have experienced no difficulties. Our systems must be working! We are also seeing more interested volunteers, probably because vaccinations are becoming more widespread and people are feeling safer. We will have a returning driver now that he’s had the jabs!
Our trailer and van continue to operate flawlessly with some credit going to Rich Trailers, the manufacturer, who has sent us many maintenance parts for free! We appreciate them as well as Arroyo Grande Chevrolet who does our routine van maintenance at a reduced rate. Our equipment is splendid!
Volunteer Coordinator Update
Since November of 2020 we have welcomed several dedicated and kind volunteers to our work crew operating our Shower the People sites. Join me in appreciating: Steve Brown and Mike VanBelleghem, drivers; Dave Bernhardt, cleaner; and Pam Garcia, Judy Staley and Pamela Werth, intake volunteers.
We have also had a steady crew of veteran volunteers and our guests are always grateful. When it is deemed safe for us all to gather in person, we look forward to a volunteer appreciation event. Any questions, drop me a line and I will respond. Many thanks! firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharing Our “Shower the People” Story
“HelpSLO” is a Facebook group that, since the early days of the Covid epidemic, has been a forum for people to coordinate grassroots people-helping-people projects in San Luis Obispo County (https://www.facebook.com/groups/helpslo/). When I saw Rebecca Juretic’s fantastic video highlighting Shower the People’s work at the SLO City Library, I shared it with the HelpSLO group.I was delighted at the positive responses (107 “likes,” 15 comments).
“This is so important,” said one commenter. “Imagine having no access to a real shower. Especially needed with the pandemic and the increase in homelessness we are experiencing.”
Another wrote: “What a needed service! How uplifting it must be to get clean and get some basic essentials. Kudos to those who help bring this about!”
December 2020 — Here’s to Our Volunteers!
“It’s part of life, physically or psychologically, to help another human.” In my opinion our STP volunteers are all about that.
Shower the People is an all-volunteer organization, and our December Newsletter is a tribute to everyone on our wonderful team.
STP shut down our shower program in March of 2020 due to the onset of COVID19 in our county. Closing was not an easy decision for us; we had gotten to know and care for many of our homeless guests and knew they would be particularly vulnerable to the virus. It was with a heavy heart that we closed.
In May the County gave STP the go-ahead to restart our program, and we wasted no time in preparing to reopen.
We redesigned our shower program from scratch, using the best health protocols, PPE, disinfectants and site layout in order to prevent our volunteers and guests from contracting and spreading the virus. In June, those of our volunteers who were able to, signed up and once more started volunteering at our sites.
Below I’d like to introduce to you our site team members and their responses to the question, “Why do you volunteer with Shower the People?”
“I started with showers because I love mechanical things, fixing stuff and developing systems and procedures (control freak?). But now that I’ve worked with our volunteers, I’m continually blown away by the kindness and motivation of those folks that dedicate their time to this wonderful endeavor. And, the pleasure I get from hearing our appreciative guests thank us for what we do, is just the best! I’ve learned so much in the last few years thanks to everyone at Shower The People.”
“I enjoy giving back to the community I am apart of; I am pretty sure I benefit as much as the clients I serve.”
“I enjoy volunteering for STP because I’ve met many new friends who have the same goals of serving others as me. It is my way of extending care to the community by providing a much needed service and it is very gratifying to hear how appreciative the people are for the use of this service.”
“I keep volunteering because it is a useful thing to do, and it is one of the few opportunities to get out in the world during the pandemic.”
“The teamwork among the volunteers, and the smiles on the faces of those we serve keep me coming back week after week.”
“The teamwork! And, Rick’s jokes!
“It makes me feel good to help others”
“I like meeting and being with other team members, and, of course, seeing the happy faces of those who exit the showers.”
“I volunteer because I see the direct impact of a shower – the smile, the grin, or the bounce in their step.”
“Volunteering feeds my soul and Shower the People is an amazing organization that provides a basic human need with kindness and dignity.”
“I have really appreciated the opportunity to use my gifts to bring much-deserved attention to this incredible program! The people are all amazing and generous souls who want to bring more light and love to our community.”
Note From Our Volunteer Coordinator Claire
November has been a busy month at the showers. I want to thank the dedicated volunteers who carry out the tasks that keep our showers open. We are especially grateful to those who are working during the pandemic. I appreciate the protocols that keep us mindful of safe health practices.
This month we welcomed several new volunteers: Gina, Pamela, Kathryn and trainees Pam and Cindy. I am so grateful for their enthusiasm! Thanks for the training provided by Gary and Dory and Rick. What a team!
We always welcome new volunteers. Think about mentioning our program to your friends and neighbors!
January through November of 2020 STP has provided 1,627 showers to the homeless in our communities. We handed out 1,037 pairs of new boxers, 1,323 pairs of new socks, and 255 new T-shirts the latest addition to our giveaways.
*Due to the onset of COVID19 our program was closed from mid-March to June.
September/October 2020 News and Updates
The number of folks showering with us has shot up during this COVID epidemic. All of our three current sites have seen an increasing number of guests since we restarted our shower program in June. Below are some of our shower totals June through August.
Unitarian Universalist Church — 184 showers — (June through August)
SLO Library — 105 showers — (July and August)
Oceano — 50 showers — (August)
All of our cleaners wear full PPE, while guests and volunteers wear a mask and observe social distancing.
We’ve added some products that we believe are important for our guests during this epidemic: our intake volunteers hand out 2oz bottles of hand sanitizer and a package of biodegradable outdoor wipes as well as a mask to our guests. This week we’ve also started offering white T-shirts to those guests in need of one.
All of the events we had planned for 2020 — the parades, the Veteran’s Stand Down — have been canceled. We continue to give talks by Zoom to local clubs and organizations. We are still supported and encouraged by our local churches, the Community Foundation, Arroyo Grande Community Hospital and the United Way.
The volunteers who are working at our sites have done incredible work. The cleaners have it down to a science, intake is welcoming and terrific at crowd control, we’ve welcomed new drivers, and our site supervisor is back from foot surgery. We have so much to be proud and grateful for!
We fully recognize that not everyone is able to help at the showers during this time and we look forward to the time when we can all be back together again.
We’re Heading Back to Peoples Kitchen!
Starting Thursday, October 8th, STP will once more be providing showers at People’s Kitchen!
We are very excited to restart our shower operations at our very first shower site, 946 Rockaway Ave, Grover Beach, the home of South County People’s Kitchen. STP will schedule our shower operations there every Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
The Board Welcomes New Member Rick Grether
If you know Rick Grether, two things are abundantly apparent: his love for his family and his commitment to serve his community. For many years, Rick has served as a Boy Scout leader, a soccer and baseball coach, a 4-H mentor, a Sierra Service Project leader, and a guitar-playing music leader at his church. Rick now serves as head of Operations for Shower the People. His first task was to help design and order our new shower trailer. Then, in September 2018, he flew to Topeka, Indiana to inspect the unit before it was shipped to California. Since delivery, Rick has made dozens of upgrades and modifications to the trailer: installed an inverter, added handles, hooks, shower rods and soap dispensers to make it safer and more user friendly, installed an awning to provide shade. Rick also drives the shower trailer, gets it ready for guests, and then helps clean the shower stalls after each use!
Rick is quick, though, to give kudos to the other volunteers he works with, and says he has learned so much working with them, especially now, having to take extra precautions dealing with Covid-19. He really enjoys doing the work, but says that what motivates him is providing hot showers to our unhoused guests. He says, “They are so appreciative of something most of us take for granted.” Rick always greets guests with “Good to see you!” and a smile. One of Rick’s great qualities is his sense of humor, and spending time with him just seems to brighten your day!
Rick grew up in Stockton, California, attending Linden High School. He then went on to graduate from San Diego State and, during that time, joined the California National Guard. Then Rick became a pilot and had a career that spanned forty years, flying for Hewlett-Packard Aviation, Boeing, and twenty-eight years flying around the world with United Airlines.
Rick’s wife, Claire, is the Volunteer Coordinator for Shower the People; they have four children and three grandchildren (two of them pictured above with Rick). Rick loves to spend time with his family and is frustrated by not being able to be with them due to Covid-19. Fortunately, he is planning a camping trip with some of his family in the near future.
In his spare time, Rick plays guitar and sings in a band. He was in Boomerang Band for twelve years and for the past year and a half has been in a trio, “Change of Plans.” Lately, they’ve been relegated to literally playing in a garage!
Rick continues to be a mainstay for Shower the People, and believes that the strength of the organization is the dedication of its volunteers and its all-volunteer program. With supporters like Rick, STP will continue to grow and to provide a necessary, human service to our community.
With heartfelt regret Shower the People temporarily suspended shower service on March 12 due to the County’s order to self-isolate at home because of the imminent threat to our community from the COVID 19 virus.
Tuesday June 2nd was our reopening day! We are back to giving showers again!
On May 15 the County gave us the OK to restart our shower program and a team of STP volunteers pulled together and started to meet almost daily. They gathered the best information they could find on what needed to be changed and what materials were needed to restart our program. The number one goal for the team was to rework our operations so STP could assure the health and safety of our volunteers and our shower guests in this time of COVID 19.
By May 23rd the revised policies and procedures, the changes to the site lay out, the gathering of all the PPE was looking good on paper and was ready for testing. 20 of our STP volunteers attended two days of training, one group at the Unitarian Universalist Church (UU) parking lot in San Luis and one group the following day at St Barnabas parking lot in Arroyo Grande. A lot was learned from from both trainings, changes were discussed and made and the first copy of our new procedures was laminated!
Our operations team has begun planning for restarting our program at all of our other sites. Each site will have its own look, but all of our sites will still be the welcoming, friendly, organized shower sites that they always have been. More news to come!
Shower the People SLO COVID-19 Protocols
Volunteer Aaron Navarro put together this video for us, discussing some of the changes we have made to keep our clients and volunteers safe.
Volunteer Spotlight: Garry Schmidt
Garry Schmidt is a retired teacher having spent most of his career in the Bakersfield area. He has spent many years teaching in overseas schools that provided education for Christian Missionary children and other expats. He has worked as a teacher in the Congo, Kenya, Philippines, Lithuania, Egypt and Bethlehem, West Bank. Garry is married to a teacher who has been his partner in all things including these overseas endeavors.
Garry learned about Shower the People after hearing Claire Grether, STP Volunteer Coordinator, speak at a small men’s group at his church. He has met many wonderful people who worked at Shower the People who have introduced him to other volunteer opportunities with the homeless population, such as Safe Parking, Warming Center and People’s Kitchen. He said, “Shower the People has been a big doorway for me.”
Garry stated, “Being around the homeless citizens of our community and with those who help provide showers has given me a new understanding of the needs that exist for those without permanent housing.”
Garry has been working weekly as a shower cleaner since 2019. He has been able to witness the transformative power of a shower for those in need. He said when there is a need, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”
Thank you, Garry, for your work on behalf of those we serve.
Shower the People wants to thank the Arroyo Grande Community Hospital for their generous help with our PPE and their assistance as we formed best practices to prevent infection by the COVID 19 virus.
Shower the People would not have been able to restart our shower program without the generous donation from the Community Foundation’s Disaster Support Fund. Their support was timely and needed at this time economic uncertainty.
April 2020 CoViD-19 Safe at Home Edition
Regretfully, Shower the People has temporarily suspended our shower operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Here is some of the fabulous ongoing work of some of our partners and friends during this time:
On April 21, Lava Mae is sending STP some hygiene kits for us to distribute. They also have come up with a hand washing station idea that we can implement in the coming weeks.
Five Cities Homeless Coalition (5CHC) staff are working remotely (mostly). The main number is still being answered: (805) 574‒1638. People who receive mail at 5CHC can pick it up between 1:00-2:00 pm each day (Monday–Friday).The 5CHC Warming Center is open as needed. Ongoing is their work with the County to develop support for those who are homeless and who are being affected by CoViD-19.
South County People’s Kitchen continues to provide a large take-out lunch seven days a week to all who are in need.
Bombas Socks is going ahead and sending STP a shipment of socks. Bombas has been a generous and consistent supporter of our mobile shower program.
From January through March, 2020, Shower the People SLO offered free showers to 581 guests.
We have handed out 638 towels, 531 washcloths, and 504 pairs of socks, and 239 pairs of boxers!
Happy Birthday, STP Van!
We have had our van now for one full year! Since April 2019 we have put just under 3,000 miles on it! Thank you to the Latter Day Saints for their donation that allowed us to buy our own van.
We’ll be back on the road and giving showers ASAP!
Volunteers’ Safe at Home Adventures
Many of our volunteers usually spend several hours each week volunteering for Shower the People and are finding themselves with a lot of free time. Although they can no longer serve at the showers, some of our volunteers never take no for an answer, so here are some of our helpers and what they are doing. Rick Grether has been working on maintenance and repair for the shower trailer. He repaired some damage on the top, added a new switch to the electrical panel to make it more complicated (I’m sure there must have been another reason too…), and lowered the floor drains so they would work (excellent idea for the drains to actually work!!) Thanks, Rick!!
David Gross is our Site Supervisor at the Unitarian Universalist Church and a regular volunteer at our SLO Library site.
David, seen below cleaning a bench in the pouring rain, reports, “I’ve been spending some of my sequestration time helping the Standard Ebooks project make free, quality ebook versions of public domain books. The latest one I’ve helped to release is Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations, which you can download for free here — it is meant to help us stay calm and collected when fears of death, illness, and grief loom over us. Seems like it could be useful in our current predicament. The next one on my list is the Discourses of Epictetus which is in a similar vein and has just been released here.”
Kalleen Corley is gathering necessary clothing, sleeping bags and shoes/socks for our homeless friends living in our community. She has been in touch with the State Parks Rangers inquiring about shower usage in the campgrounds for our homeless in need.
Kalleen has been working on editing the content of the website with volunteer, David Gross. She has been working on putting out a special edition of our newsletter which will include volunteer activities during sequester.
Making art: oil, watercolor and acrylic painting and sewing felt children’s books occupy a good amount of each day, as well.
Shower the People volunteers are always happy to visit your church, club or organization to talk about our shower program. If you would like, we can bring our shower trailer along for a “show and tell”. Contact: email@example.com
Shower the People SLO is looking forward to seeing you all as soon as possible!!