Catholic Charities provides mobile showers for homeless

Miscellany/Juanita Bustamante: A staff member cleans one of the mobile shower units provided by Catholic Charities to help serve the homeless. St. Paul the Apostle Church in Seneca is the latest place to offer the ministry.

SENECA—Catholic Charities has added a third parish to its mobile shower services as it strives to assist the state’s at-risk population during the coronavirus pandemic.

It is a service the area’s homeless greatly appreciate as it provides an opportunity for a hot shower and personal hygiene products.

The Clean of Heart Mobile Shower Unit recently popped up at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen, where volunteers from the soup kitchen and St. Paul the Apostle Church helped set up and provide showers to those in need.  

The effort to bring the unit to Seneca began in late June when Gracie Ortiz, regional director for Catholic Charities in Greenville, met with Father William Hearne, pastor at St. Paul the Apostle, and Steve Finger, who directs the parish’s Social Outreach Ministry.

Ortiz said she shared information about the Mobile Clean of Heart Unit and asked if the parish would be interested in Catholic Charities bringing it to Seneca.

St. Paul the Apostle covered the cost of transporting it from Greenville and provided the soap and personal hygiene products, Finger said. Jim Corey, who heads the parish’s Benevolence ministry, and Knights of Columbus Grand Knight Brian Lamb helped set up the unit.

The soup kitchen provided the electricity, water, and external plumbing for the mobile shower unit, Ortiz said.  

In addition to Seneca, the mobile shower unit stops once monthly at St. Paul the Apostle in Spartanburg. For the balance of each month, the unit is based at San Sebastian Mission in Greenville, Ortiz said. San Sebastian served as Catholic Charities’ initial Mobile Clean of Heart site, opening there in early June.

“A shower is something most Americans take for granted, and lack of access to showers is something that can directly compromise a sense of dignity for someone living on the streets,” Ortiz said.

She noted that the ministry is vital to the homeless population, which is especially vulnerable during the pandemic. Catholic Charities has been working with the Greenville Homeless Alliance on ways to address their needs and the heightened focus on proper personal hygiene. 

“What I like about the mobile aspect is that it enables us to serve people where they are,” she said.

In addition to showers, clients also received a bag lunch and counseling opportunities on finding jobs and other services.

The mobile service is an extension of Catholic Charities brick-and-mortar Clean of Heart services, which the agency first opened in Columbia in 2011. It added a second branch in Myrtle Beach in 2018 to serve the homeless along the Grand Strand.

Ortiz said the three Upstate mobile stops are part of a pilot program, with a long-term goal of providing the service elsewhere in the diocese. 

The mobile unit includes three shower stalls, a toilet and a sink.

“We provide people with fresh towels, soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant,” she said.

Funds from the diocese’s Bicentennial Campaign were used to purchase the mobile unit, Ortiz said. The money was allocated through the Catholic Community Foundation, which distributes the funds.