Being powerless to maintain personal hygiene compromises mental health and physical wellbeing.
The number of people sleeping rough has been steadily increasing for the last 10 years, although a nationwide problem, it is much more prevalent in the capital. London’s population accounts for approximately 16% of England’s total, but more than a quarter (27%) of England’s rough sleepers. There are many homeless charities in the capital and across the country doing valuable work, but just 13% of Londoners feel enough is being done to tackle homelessness. ShowerBox is dedicated to creating a free and secure shower space for those who sleep rough in London. By doing this we can help empower homeless people to:
Maintain Good Personal Hygiene
Being powerless to maintain personal hygiene compromises mental and physical well-being and exacerbates feelings of inadequacy. 45% of homeless people surveyed had been diagnosed with a mental health problem (compared to 25% of the general population), the most common condition of which was depression. Those who have no choice but to sleep rough are 9 times more likely to commit suicide than the average person.
Build Confidence and Motivation
Being clean and warm can help create a feeling of confidence and motivation, feelings essential for creating positive change. Many homeless people experience low self-esteem and a loss of ability and will to care for oneself. Those sleeping rough often become institutionalised to the street and lack the confidence and motivation to seek help. 80% of single people experiencing homelessness want to work, but only 10% are in paid employment.
Stop the Spread of Disease
By providing a place to wash, ShowerBox helps stop the spread of preventable, debilitating diseases which costs the NHS millions each year. 41% of homeless people reported a long-term physical health problem (compared to just 28% of the general population), many of these problems (such as stomach problems, skin infections and urinary problems) could be prevented with access to regular showers.
ShowerBox was born out of the human need to feel good and lead a safe life.
I’m Sarah Lamptey, a former volunteer for various homeless organisations and the head fundraiser for ShowerBox. ShowerBox was born from a conversation I had with a guest at a winter shelter a few years ago. I was told of the huge need for showers in London, as they have in other parts of the world, indeed, as they used to have here. I published an article on this on HuffPost in July 2018, after thinking about how powerfully transformative a shower can be and the positive impact of feeling good about yourself, both physically and mentally.
Whilst researching the HuffPost article, I met Andrew McLeay, who runs the Ealing Soup Kitchen. He told me that he'd known of individuals who had passed away from preventable illnesses on the streets, simply because of an inability to get clean. Other homeless workers discussed the stigma received in public by not having the opportunity to maintain good personal hygiene. There have been free and low-cost public showers across Europe for decades and a small number of mobile showering facilities have launched across America. Closer to home, since the Ealing Soup Kitchen installed a shower in 2017, numbers have tripled in size.
I set about working out what I could do to help. After a successful fundraising campaign, I was able to buy a trailer and convert it into a mobile shower unit. For a week over the Christmas period of 2018, the ShowerBox trailer was in residence at the American International Church winter shelter offering showers to over 20 guests. Since then, it has serviced winter shelters across London and is currently located at St Giles Church, near Tottenham Court Road tube station. A group of volunteers and myself offer showers, toiletries and other essentials to around 25 guests each session. Up until August 2020, we raised over £10k in donations on JustGiving, and along with an incredible £5k grant by the wonderful Somers Town Community Association, we bought a towing vehicle and a container to be converted into a double shower room, as well as insurance, fuel, underwear and more.
Almost 9,000 people sleep rough every year in London.* Many go weeks or even months without a shower.
A donation to ShowerBox helps those who are homeless maintain good personal hygiene, build confidence, increase motivation and stop the spread of preventable diseases.
Each week, I receive many emails from groups across the UK, asking for advice and whether we are planning to expand ShowerBox. We say that as long as there is the need, we will work to help meet it. Alongside running the trailer, we have started to convert a ten-foot container into a double shower room. Also, excitingly, the project has received a £15k solar power shower donation. We are now exploring avenues for installing them on a permanent location in the capital, placing them at the centre of what will become a well-being shower garden. In order to continue and to grow, we need help in all its forms, to help bring water - restorative physically and mentally - to as many people as possible. A simple human requirement which must be accessible to all.
ShowerBox in the Press
London’s first free shower for the homeless is set for Brixton
An initiative to provide free and safe showering facilities to homeless people has secured its first location...View More →
The Impact Free Public Showers Could Have On The Lives Of Rough Sleepers
If toilets are a primary human need, showers are a close secondary one...View More →
Free showers for rough sleepers could save lives and end the stigma around homelessness
The idea struck me while I was volunteering at a winter shelter...View More →