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Inspiring the Central Coast: Providing showers for the homeless - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Inspiring the Central Coast: Providing showers for the homeless

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A look inside the shower trailer. (KSBY photo) A look inside the shower trailer. (KSBY photo)

You've heard the phrase, "It's the little things that make life worth living."

That's especially true for many homeless people.

A local man, Tim Waag, is working to make sure some of life's necessities aren't out of their reach.

"I have piles of sleeping bags, tents, knit caps, sweaters, more sleeping bags, more sleeping bags," he said.

Waag runs a law office in San Luis Obispo, but his spare time is spent cataloging and distributing supplies to homeless folks. 

"I have no experience in social services.  It's just something that... it's a humanitarian thing that's just the right thing to do," he said.

Waag says those who insist the homeless are just lazy vagabonds, haven't thought it through. 

"It just simply defies all logic that you would want to live in a filthy homeless camp in your own trash, being cold, being hungry, having a wet sleeping bag, being cited, ticketed forced to move," he explained.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than a half-million Americans are now homeless and though California has just 12-percent of the nation's population, it's home to 44 percent of the homeless population, with more than 100,000 people living on the fringe in the Golden State.

Waag says one of the biggest hurdles to getting them back on their feet is hygiene.  

"I haven't taken a shower (in) three months other than sponge baths," said George Jordry, a local man now living on the streets.

"You can't go and take a shower when you need to take a shower," added Corinne Borgia, who says she's not currently homeless but has been in the past.

Patricia Henderson has been homeless for several years.  

"So many people take it for granted that they have running water and they have a place to take a shower every day," she said. "Trust me. Go a couple of days without it, let alone a couple of weeks, months."

Bobby Jackson is also homeless in San Luis Obispo.  

"Everybody should be able to shower every day and change clothes. When you don't have that, your self-esteem is so low, you just let yourself go," he said.

Without exception, the homeless people who agreed to talk to KSBY said access to a regular shower would be a game changer. So, about six weeks ago, Tim Waag and the folks at Hope's Village of SLO started raising money for a mobile tandem shower - one standard-sized, the other handicap accessible. Waag and company say they'll begin bringing the shower to homeless camps in the next few weeks.

"We block it out in 20-minute segments," he explained. "So you have a 20-minute shower. You can take your time."

Waag says he knows it's not "the" answer, but he says it's a good start.

"We'll have clean clothes for everybody who takes a shower. They're going to feel much better and when you feel better, you behave better," he said.

Jordry says that opportunity provides more than just a chance to get clean. He says it'll help his self-esteem. 

"Just to be able to get on the bus knowing that, okay, you're not going to be reeking and have the bus driver say something to you. Just dignity," he said.

Henderson says she too looks forward to a chance for a hot shower. 

"Being on the street isn't a choice, but making the best of it is because happiness is a lifestyle choice," she added.

Waag says of the $38,000 price tag for the shower wagon, Dignity Health has agreed to contribute $25,000.

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