I’m Sarah Lamptey, a volunteer for various homeless organisations. During a conversation I had with a guest at a winter shelter last year, I was told of the need for showering facilities in London, as they have in other parts of the world. Indeed, as they used to have here.
The relative simplicity of it baffled the brain. Why do these not exist already? Through my article published by the Huffington Post in July 2018 and all the meetings and research since, I’ve realised the magnitude of power that these showers will bring to so many.
I created a petition to raise awareness. Then, I spoke to the London Mayor’s Office, who plan to support existing day centres. But there are numerous reasons why the centres are not able to be fully effective for all. They do incredible work with what they have, but space and resources are for the most part limited. They are not open all day and every day and some people living on the streets are battling addictions, meaning that certain environments worsen this harshest of challenges. And so on.
Extreme complexity called for compartmentalising. I started to fundraise and bought a trailer, in December 2018! Here I am, after persuading my kind friend Paddy Bickerton to collect it from Essex and bring it to London!
Then I had chats with as many people as possible, knowing pretty little about renovating anything! I started to get in touch with tradespeople and it proved tricky to secure anyone fast, which was a bit of a worry – I had agreed to provide the showers for a winter shelter at Tottenham Court Road, London, run by the Quakers from 22nd December. John and Clare of Academy Ltd donated time and resources to helping fix the boiler and I will be forever grateful! The electrician came, saw, and corrected, and a mechanic gave the trailer his thumb up. Then, painting, inside and out, the floors and walls, with sealant and exterior paint, and logo designing and creating, and my boyfriend, Tom, fixed locks and new showers and created a partition wall inside, creating two shower areas from one. Costing around £2500 in total, helped along by donations of resources and time, the first ShowerBox was complete!
Ans just in time, too. The most incredible moment was when the water was turned on for the first time. I’ll never forget it.
It then serviced the winter shelter. The installation process was nerve-wracking – it felt like there were too many things that might not work. But, it did! For a week over Christmas 2018, over 20 guests used the showers.
Its next home is a longer term shelter in Hornsey, London, at a shelter run by Streets Kitchen, open in January 2019.
My New Year’s Resolution? To help bring water, restorative physically and mentally, to as many people as possible. A human requirement which must be accessible to all.