Public Services

Shower to Empower offers relief and respite to those suffering homelessness

“We sadly live in a state where a shower or bathroom access is a basic needs barrier that over 1000 Rhode Islanders faced in over four years. Shower to Empower must exist in order to meet that basic need. And on an oppressively hot day like today, and days that we’ve seen all week, know that Shower to Empower is saving lives. It doesn’t look like the way lives traditionally get saved, but we know that by offering respite, relief and resources, from both the elements and from homelessness, we have an obligation to act and we provide that with dignity and with our care for folks.”
Photo for Shower to Empower offers relief and respite to those suffering homelessness

Published on July 25, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

In April of 2018, House of Hope CDC in partnership with Team Williams, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, and the City of Providence, launched the state’s first mobile navigation unit. Shower to Empower, a first of its kind in all of New England, provides not only showers, but case management services, medical navigation services, haircuts, and other essential items to those experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island. On Friday, House of Hope marked, without celebration, the 5000th shower offered through this program.

“While the milestone of 5,000 showers and more than 1,000 individuals served is significant, it does not negate the immediate crisis those experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island are faced with right now”, House of Hope CDC Executive Director Laura Jaworski said. “We want to take this opportunity to call attention to the fact that there is an even bigger unsheltered crisis in Rhode Island than when Shower to Empower first launched in 2018.”

On any given night in Rhode Island, there are over 1,500 Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness. As of June 2022, there were 288 individuals listed as living in places not meant for human habitation and 1,001 individuals are currently on a waiting list for emergency shelter beds.

Since its inception in April of 2018, Shower to Empower has provided 5,182 showers, 1,241 haircuts, 1,178 medical navigation services and have served 1,007 unique individuals. Shower to Empower is also now in service 5 days a week in Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, and West Warwick. Shower to Empower has proven to be a key linkage to essential services in the absence of adequate emergency shelter beds.

“Today I’m here to spread awareness and to inspire more people to be of service to humanity,” said barber Kenny Deburgo, who has been volunteering his services since 2016.

Shower to Empower also has medical personal present to help people with things like diabetes education, skin or wound guidance, deciphering diagnoses, translating hospital discharge paperwork or making community care referrals.

“Not only is it a hot shower and a haircut,” said Robert Alexander, a constituent from Shower to Empower, currently housed with House of Hope CDC, “It’s also having someone to speak to. It doesn’t matter if it’s for five minutes…”

“I feel both good and bad about our celebration today,” said Shaina Garro, Outreach Case Manager, House of Hope CDC. “I’m happy that we are able to provide such an amazing service for so many people, but I’m also disappointed by the fact that we’re doing more showers now than ever before.”

“We are actively choosing not to celebrate that Shower to Empower exists in the first place,” said Executive Director Jaworski. “There’s no cake. There’s no balloons. There’s no candles to blow out.

“We sadly live in a state where a shower or bathroom access is a basic needs barrier that over 1000 Rhode Islanders faced in over four years. Shower to Empower must exist in order to meet that basic need. And on an oppressively hot day like today, and days that we’ve seen all week, know that Shower to Empower is saving lives. It doesn’t look like the way lives traditionally get saved, but we know that by offering respite, relief and resources, from both the elements and from homelessness, we have an obligation to act and we provide that with dignity and with our care for folks.”

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