Dennis Van Kampen will never forget a conversation that a case worker at Mel Trotter Ministries had with a woman who cried after being asked “how can we help you move forward?” The woman had been experiencing homelessness for years, staying around Heartside Park, and suffered from several mental health challenges.
However this question brought tears to her eyes.
“The lady became really emotional and she said ‘I don’t remember the last time that I had a shower and I just want to be clean,'” Van Kampen said during a Zoom interview on Tuesday. “So when our team could go back to her recently and say ‘Hey, guess what? We have showers. They’re coming,' she literally just cried. She was just bawling tears of joy and she said ‘I’m going to be able to move forward.’
Mel Trotter Ministries created a mobile shower unit for people experiencing homelessness. It’ll be introduced Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. at Other Way Ministries on Fulton Street. After that it'll be ready to go.
“There will be tents set up where people can have access to talk about services that they may or may not be interested in,” Van Kampen said. “They’ll be able to get some food, some clothing, eventually we hope that there will be medical professionals with us so they might be able to get some medical care. And, they’ll be able to use the shower.”
Van Kampen said the mobile unit, or truck, has three stalls for people to take hot showers. The team at Mel Trotter was first introduced to a mobile shower unit when they traveled to Seattle and worked with an outreach group there that had one. That’s when they considered creating one for Grand Rapids to provide hot showers for people going through homelessness.
“You and I take these things for granted. I don’t ever think about whether or not I can have a shower,” Van Kampen said. “But, to a lot of people in our community they don’t have that luxury. So this is a way to provide dignity.”
It’s also a way to help them go to job interviews and doctors appointments cleaned up, he said. Ultimately, they're hoping the unit will help them achieve their main goal to end homelessness one person at a time.
“We’re working toward the day where a shower truck isn’t needed because we’re getting people into the housing that they need and want and deserve,” Van Kampen said.