Showers of Hope offers help for homeless

People who are homeless or don’t have access to showers will soon be able to take them, thanks to a group of volunteers and churches led by St. Patrick’s Church in Binghamton.

Called Showers of Hope, the project consists of buying a van equipped with a sink, shower and private dressing room. The van will be parked at various places, including the parking lots of local churches, so that those who need it can use it. All that is needed to run it is a garden hose and a power supply, said Barb Donnelly, a parishioner at St. Patrick’s and one of the organizers of the project, along with Mickey Carbo.

“This is what we should be doing,” Connelly said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Showers of Hope is part of the Outreach Ministry of the Southern Tier and includes other projects, including a recent sock drive for the homeless, Connelly said.

The idea for the project belongs to the pastor of St. Patrick’s, Rev. Monsignor John Putano.

“I was inspired by what Pope Francis did in Rome when he established a place in St. Peter’s Square” where homeless people could take a shower and get a haircut, Putano said. “We also heard of other places that offer similar services, and all of this encouraged us to move forward.”

The idea was discussed in St. Patrick’s and St. Thomas Aquinas parishes, along with representatives from the Coalition for the Homeless of the Southern Tier, Catholic Charities, the Broome County Council of Churches and other local parishes, Putano said.

Fundraising efforts are underway to help pay for the $30,000 project, Putano said. During the season of Lent in March and early April, St. Patrick’s Church held fish dinners to benefit the project.

Plans call for purchasing the van and starting the program by June, Putano said. Volunteers also hope to have laundry facilities available, along with other services, including a hairdresser and podiatrist.

There is a great need for this project, said Rebecca Rathmell, the Continuum of Care coordinator for the Coalition for the Homeless, which covers six counties, including Broome, Tioga, Chenango, Cortland, Otsego and Delaware. At least 30 to 40 people are homeless on any given night, and 80 percent are from Broome County, she said.

In preparation for the upcoming Showers of Hope project, volunteers from St. Patrick’s have spent the past few months giving away coffee, soup, sandwiches and personal care items to anyone who needs them. The bags full of toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap, among other items, were put together by students at St. James School in Johnson City.  Volunteers serve food and hand out care bags every Monday afternoon in front of the American Legion Post 80, on Main Street on Binghamton’s West Side.

“We are trying to build relationships and let them know that services are available for them,” said Rathmell, who attends the Monday afternoon gatherings and networks with homeless people.

On a recent Monday afternoon, Anne McGinnis, a volunteer from St. Patrick’s, was hard at work dishing out soup and sandwiches.

“I had no idea there was such a need in our community until we started,” McGinnis said. “Praying is good, but doing something like this is really praying with your hearts and hands.”

How to help

To volunteer or donate money, food or personal care items to the Outreach Ministry of the Southern Tier, including its Showers of Hope project, contact the office of St. Patrick’s Church at 607-722-1060.

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