Mobile Showers: A Library Service

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

  1. Provide moments of privacy to those who lack stable homes
  2. Create social interactions between librarians, community and those experiencing homelessness
  3. Restore dignity
  4. Provide healing hygiene
  5. Spread awareness throughout the community about those who don’t have access to basic hygiene

Description of Community you wish to engage:

The community I wish to engage are those experiencing homelessness or hard times and lack access to basic hygiene.

Action Brief Statement:

For Community

Convince those experiencing homelessness that by using the mobile shower service they will feel better about themselves which will allow them to become more involved with the library and the community because they will have their dignity restored.

For Staff

Convince the librarians of the FCPL that by providing mobile shower services once a week they will help patrons feel better about themselves which will make them feel more comfortable with engaging in future library services and events because they will have made impactful social interactions.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

https://www.therighttoshower.com/get-involved#start-a-mobile-shower

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/06/cleaning-up-mobile-laundry-for-the-homeless-goes-international

https://www.oregonlive.com/homeless/2016/01/our_homeless_crisis_the_woman.html

Class Reading inspiration:

There were so many ideas going on in my mind that were inspired by the readings below. I basically saw how bold and how inclusive these programs were and thought about my local library, the Fresno County Public Library (FCPL) and where they were in terms of being modern. Spoiler: they are behind the times but I figured mobile showers is a step in the right direction, it meets the needs of a large community that uses the FCPL and it is not to big so it has a higher chance of being accepted as a real service. Basically I have high hopes for the future of the FCPL and I wanted a plan that could turn those hopes into action.

https://youmedia.org/news/in-san-francisco-teens-design-a-living-room-for-high-tech-learning-at-the-public-library/

https://mrlibrarydude.wordpress.com/2019/09/13/starting-a-food-pantry-in-an-academic-library/

https://tametheweb.com/2008/05/15/embracing-service-to-teens/

https://tametheweb.com/2011/02/15/dok-delft-takes-user-generated-content-to-the-next-level-a-ttw-guest-post-by-erik-boekesteijn/

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

Found on FCPL’s (Fresno County Public Library) website.

Mission: We enrich lives and build community.

Values— Service: Making our customers top priority and offering resources for and to everyone.

  • Example policies Fresno EOC (Economic Opportunities Commission) they have provided health fairs which brought some dentists out for cleanings as well as food and information on resources for the community. 
  • Research LAVA MAE website, the original creator of the mobile shower service.
  • Library management to work with city to create policies for weekly service.

Guidelines: Use a numbered ticket system, have a check in table where participants get their tickets. Have hygiene kits together to make it easier to pass out. Create a flow staring with check in table to hygiene kit area to waiting/ social area, then mobile showers and another hang out area/ info resource area.

 Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:

  • At least two librarians to oversee the service project.
  • Apply for ALA Library Census Equity Fund (2,000 grant).
  • Get bus donated from city, if wanting to flip into a mobile shower service.
  • OR use Commercial shower trailers and get truck donated from car company so anyone with a license can drive the showers.
  • Use revitalization funds from Fresno’s downtown revitalization project. 
  • Utilize volunteer power. Ask fraternities and sororities first, approach high school and discuss community service hour opportunities, possibly have high schoolers team up with college student volunteers.
  • 2 people to run service at all times, a truck driver, a storing area for shower and truck. Volunteers to pass out products, speak with patrons and to help clean facilities in between uses.
  • Fundraiser for Hygiene products such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, deodorant, razors, nail clippers, nail files, socks etc.

Action Steps & Timeline:

  • 3 to 4 months in the spring time would be a reasonable time frame especially since money needs to be raised or applied for and donation letters need to be written and fulfilled.
  • The library management has to approve the service and probably someone from the city as well since the service would take place on property that is separate from the library. The property would probably be the park area in front of the library or the empty lot about half a mile from the library or possibly both (changing locations monthly or 2x a month). Eventually provide laundry, haircut, dental and eye services.
  • If plan for providing mobile shower for those experiencing homelessness is not approved, then the backup plan would be to start a little smaller and ask the library to provide hygiene kits to those who ask which would be covered with the grant.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:

  • As mentioned above, at least two librarians to oversee the service project. And outsource for volunteers from schools and those needing community service hours.
  • Librarians would have to be trained on how the showers work and the process for efficiently providing as many people with showers as possible as well as proper equipment cleaning.

Training for this Technology or Service:

 The librarians who are spearheading the project would be trained. Management would probably come up with the training design since they would have to approve the project, perhaps a social worker could get involved with the training, so participants are treated with respect. Unfortunately, the FCPL lacks librarians so the library would have to take a half day to train and go over all questions and concerns. The downtown library is located right by the police station so they could be notified of the service times and possibly send someone to the training to help field questions alongside the social worker.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:

  • Local News Channel, Great Day for fundraising awareness and participation since they are very involved with the community.
  • Hang up fliers with information at library, make sure to have pictures just in case some homeless cannot read. Hang in different languages. Post signs in nearby parks or homeless shelters or hangouts.

Evaluation:

  • Measure success by using the Costco tallying technique and speaking with users and asking for feedback.
  • Look at the quality of feedback, see the increase of usage over time.

Expansion: get fast food companies to provide food, get spa services donated for a more relaxation or pampering day. Eventually have service provided 2 to 4 times a week.

**Notes**

  • I tried to work with the Fresno County Public Library to get a better idea with my planning timeline and more detail on who needs to be involved, however they were not very helpful at all.
  • I found out that the organization “The Right to Shower,” who made mobile showers a reality sell body wash and bar soap at Whole Foods and on Amazon with 100% of the proceeds going to providing others with showers https://www.therighttoshower.com/product-category/products

10 comments
  1. Hi Gloria,
    I was so excited to read your post! I grew up and lived in Fresno for some time, and still visit often. While I am sad to hear that FCPL weren’t enthusiastic at first glance, I admire your hope for this project. It is SO needed. As I was reading your plan, I was thinking about the idea of libraries and agencies working together for such services. I am admittedly am out of touch a little with Fresno services, but thought about the St. Agnes Holy Cross Center for Women (My mom used to work there), or Poverello House. I wonder if the Fresno Libraries collaborate with such agencies already…At least, it made me think about the strength in numbers and community building opportunities that we can rely on to help such amazing ideas like the showers be more amenable to libraries. So cool! If you do move forward for this project, I would love to keep in touch!
    Katie

    1. Hi Katie,
      Unfortunately I have not been able to see if the library is already teaming up with such resources since I have not asked that question directly but in the few staff interviews I have done none have mentioned working with any such groups. I would really hope that this is a plan that could be implemented in the near future but only time will tell!

  2. Hi Gloria, this is great program! I know my local library in San Francisco (SFPL) has this program and another friend I know getting her MLIS helped in the program and said it was really incredible. This not only helps restore dignity (as you mentioned), but it’s something that homeless need in order to find employment and to deter simple health issues that can escalate without regular hygiene practices. This project is also a great way to grow community awareness, understanding, and empathy around homelessness. Great research and planning!

    1. Thank you so much Ashley. Maybe after all this is over I can contact the SFPL and see how they got their program started and then I can inform the Fresno Library about because I truly think it is needed in the community.

  3. This is such a great example of “library as a community space”, and really shows how libraries are more than just places to check out books and DVDs. It’s amazing how you even spoke with your library to try to get a better timeline, I hope your speaking with them got the idea stuck in their mind as well!

    1. Thanks Lain! I hope the idea is stuck in their mind as well. I love the FCPL but they are truly in need of some serious upgrades and modernization.

  4. Hi Gloria,
    This service was interesting to read about. I didn’t know about the existence of mobile showers before reading this post. Good job the funding, action, and guideline section. I can see a lot of homeless people using this service if they are given the opportunity. The showers would especially be useful during this time when considering the COVID-19 pandemic. The goals for this service is heartwarming.

    1. Hey Jin,
      I am so glad my post was educational for you. I would like to think that this would be a valuable service and hopefully it can be a dream fulfilled. Maybe with this COVID-19 pandemic more people would be interested in making this happen. And thank you so much for your kind words.

  5. This is a great plan to provide to the homeless. Taking a nice shower to wash off the buildup that has been left while walking the streets to find a place a stay or work can be refreshing for some folks. And a lot of homeless hangout at the library so it’s a perfect spot for the mobile showers to be and to help them restore their dignity. It’s a little disappointing to hear that FCPL was not very helpful to get you information on a timeline for this or other details, even if this is an idea for a plan.

  6. Love this idea so much! I’m sure Fresno County could make use of a service like this. I used to work at the East Palo Alto Library and we would have a service called Dignity On Wheels stop by either once a week or every other week. It’s been a while since I worked there. EPA has a large unhoused population, so they are able to take advantage of this service. https://cmo.smcgov.org/dignity-showers-and-laundry-homeless-project-wehope

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