A Shower of Love for the Homeless

Eunie Gordon
29 December 2020, Latter-day Saint Charities blog writer

“The effort of helping the homeless get cleaned up and washed is not work but a labor of love. It’s humbling to see these people wait their turn to take a shower and then see them walk out all clean after they’ve showered—they are so happy, and many of them cry.”

Through generous donations of local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the public affairs committee of the Riverside California Stake purchased a commercial trailer and three portable showers (one of which is ADA approved) to help provide the homeless an opportunity to take a hot shower and get cleaned.

Often there were many homeless who were waiting in lines for a shower. They were asked to sit and wait their turn.

Portable showers include include ADA showers for the disabled. All are sanitized after each use. Although the program has been put on hold due to COVID-19, plans are underway to reopen soon.

John Plocher, who serves as the director of public affairs for the Riverside stake, led the shower project, affectionately named “Latter-day Showers.” Plocher said, “The effort of helping the homeless get cleaned up and washed is not work but a labor of love. It’s humbling to see these people wait their turn to take a shower and then see them walk out all clean after they’ve showered—they are so happy, and many of them cry.”

Hygiene Kits, Clean Clothes & Dog Treats

Many of the homeless do not have clean clothes to wear after their shower. The committee thought of their needs and worked with stake Church members to donate hygiene kits which included towels, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, etc. They also provided new underclothing and a fresh set of clean clothes.

After each shower, volunteers clean and sanitize the showers before each use to ensure the health and safety of the homeless.

“The first time we used the showers, many of the homeless had dogs. The next time, one of the committee members brought dog treats! It was so fun to see how appreciative the homeless were,” said Plocher.

He continued, “One lady was so grateful when she came out that she was crying and thanked us for the sanitary and health supplies that she got from the table. Also there was a man that came out beaming and came over to me and said, ‘I've never felt so loved in my life.’ Thank you to everyone in our group.”

Volunteers (L-R) Nancy Haun, Susan Sewell, Clark Gifford, John Plocher, and Vern Sewell assemble shower hygiene kits: soap, shampoo, towel, toothbrush/toothpaste, clean clothing. —Feb. 2020

Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

The shower project began a few years ago while John Plocher was serving in the interfaith council in Riverside. John became acquainted with local ministers of the Calvary Presbyterian Church. Their acquaintance soon formed into a strong friendship of trust when John learned that they had run out of funds to feed the homeless through their Hot Meals program each Sunday.

Seeing the need, John and the public affairs committee worked with local Church leadership and area welfare managers and received a grant from the local bishops’ storehouse. This provided the needed food to offer hot meals each Sunday. Not only was the Hot Meals program restored, but hearts were also warmed as friendships and trust were strengthened by the new partnership with the Calvary Presbyterian Church.

John Plocher, Director of Public Affairs, Riverside stake, stands by a grateful man who enjoyed a nice hot shower. —Feb. 2020

This partnership effort of the Hot Meals program soon turned into providing hot showers for the homeless after John and members of the public affairs committee proposed the Latter-day Showers program to the Calvary Presbyterian Church leaders.

Reverend Erin Thomas, co-pastor of the Calvary Presbyterian Church, wrote,  “It was wonderful to … see photos of the [shower] trailer. ... Thanks for the dedication of your people to help our neighbors and for your involvement with Hot Meals and supporting our efforts with food resources and volunteers. We value your faithful service. This will be a great gift for them and a sign that others care.”

Elder Robert G. Spitzer of the Calvary Presbyterian Church with Harry Haun and Trey Pitruzzello. Spitzer praises The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’s commitment to help restore dignity to the poor. —Feb. 2020

“One of our goals as a public affairs committee was to engage with each person who wanted a shower. We wanted the person to know that we were truly interested in them and learn their story,” Plocher said. “We wanted them to know that we felt they had value. All who served said the spirit of love abounded! It was not work but a labor of love.”

At Latter-day Saint Charities we encourage all kinds of service ranging from a simple smile to a thoughtful service project. Go to JustServe.org, our volunteerism arm, to find COVID-19 projects near you.

Shower volunteers: L to R: Brad Hilt, Susan Sewell, Vern Sewell, Tracy Sontoz, Karen Hansen, Scott Jones, Clark Gifford, Trey Pitruzzello, John Plocher, and Nancy Haun. — Feb. 2020