Nonprofit launches mobile showers for Central Florida youth living in homelessness
The nonprofit Service And Love Together Outreach, or S.A.L.T., held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning in Orlando to unveil its newest facility, a trailer with mobile showers and laundry services for local youth experiencing homelessness.
The trailer will be exclusively designated for people living in homelessness, ages 16 to 24, and highlights a growing need for services aimed at youth experiencing homelessness.
Executive Director Eric Camarillo said the project was made possible through a partnership with Simply Healthcare and funding from the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, which was awarded a grant of nearly $8.4 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help fight youth homelessness.
According to Camarillo, HUD determined the Central Florida region has one of the worst youth homelessness problems in the nation.
“Central Florida is one of the, if not the most, one of the areas that youth and young adult homelessness is growing the quickest. In downtown Orlando, about 7.5% of the people we see are between the ages of 16 and 24. A lot of people, they just don't get that family support. They're sleeping in their car, and being able to provide this resource is going to be really important in helping to end young adult homelessness,” Camarillo said.
This will be S.A.L.T’s third mobile trailer offering these services. Camarillo said it’s the organization’s biggest and has thus been dubbed “The Beast.”
It comes fully equipped with three bathrooms, each with toilets, showers, mirrors, and one of them set up for people with disabilities or mobility issues, including a wheelchair lift to enter, as well as grab bars and a chair inside the shower.
A propane generator helps heat up a tank holding approximately 200 gallons of fresh water, but it also has hose and electric hookup alternatives to be used whenever available.
The trailer also offers two washer-dryer sets, so guests can do their laundry.
Camarillo said guests get 11 minutes to shower, which gives the staff about 4 minutes for cleanup for the next guest. In the downtown Orlando trailer, which has four showers, he said, they do about 16 showers an hour and about 55 loads of laundry a day.
Sanitation is a goal, but there’s more to it than that.
“It’s not just about the shower, it’s about dignity,” Camarillo said. “We realized there's a huge need for showers. When people are trying to get a job and that kind of thing. But getting a shower, too. It's just a relief. You wash all that dirt and grime off you and you're ready to take on the day, you're ready to conquer the world.”
The organization’s staff will also be using their time with guests to help connect them to other resources that could eventually help the youth become housed again. Senior Case Manager Renae Oxford said they will eventually be providing a mental health resources trailer for the youth, as well.
“It’s a holistic approach. Through our case management services and our mental health services they can obtain the tools that they need to just be better as a whole, to grow and heal — not just survive.”
The trailer will be set up at Covenant House in Orlando, a center that provides services for youth experiencing homelessness, and is set to launch Feb. 29.
Lillian Hernández Caraballo is a Report for America corps member.