Restoring dignity with a shower: Mobile shower ministry offers 5,000th shower

April 11, 2023

On March 29, Moving Waters provided its 5,000th shower through its ministries at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Houston. Left to right are Jerry Neri, volunteer; Father Victor Perez, pastor of St. Joseph Church; Jennifer Park, founder and executive director of Moving Waters; Carlos C., 5,000th shower recipient, and Keri Case, shower operator, Moving Waters. (Photo courtesy of Moving Waters)

HOUSTON — On March 29, Moving Waters, a Houston-area-based ministry focused on “restoring dignity one shower at a time,” provided its 5,000th shower to an unhoused person wanting to relieve immediate suffering through better hygiene.

The shower happened at St. Joseph Catholic Church, located at 1505 Kane St. in Houston, which has hosted the ministry every Wednesday since September 2021.

The landmark number comes less than two years after Moving Waters provided its first shower — May 10, 2021 — at Northwest Assistance Ministries in Spring, one of five locations that offer two shower trailers and seven shower stalls. Near downtown Houston, St. Joseph is a prime location to serve the homeless. Father Victor Perez already saw a need for such services, having considered building showers on church property.

“It costs us nothing. What a gift of God,” Father Perez told the Herald in 2021. “The trailer is beautiful, and they really want to restore the dignity of the homeless. Inside there are messages on the wall like ‘You are loved.’ We have volunteers who spray and sanitize between showers.”

“It is an honor for us to serve Christ in the poor and homeless,” he said.

In Houston, a 2022 count and survey by the Houston Coalition for the Homeless found that one in eight people experiencing unsheltered homelessness cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for their homelessness. Many cited job loss or reduction in hours as the triggering event.

The 2022 count saw that roughly 3,223 people had experienced homelessness on a single day in January in Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties. The total was a nearly 200-person increase from 2021, while area housing programs placed more than 3,870 people into permanent housing.

“We started with three showers provided on that first day,” said Jennifer Park, founder and executive director of the organization. “We provided 400 showers in our first year of service and 4,000 in 2022, our second year. We have gone from one trailer, one pickup and one location to two trailers, two tow vehicles, five service locations a week, two employees and a team of loving and compassionate volunteers committed to making life a little more bearable for those who are enduring life’s darkest moments.”

Moving Waters is currently the only organization in the greater Houston area that provides mobile showers on a regular basis to people where they live — under bridges, either in their cars or using curbs for pillows wherever they stay during the day and lay at night.

“In addition to our shower service, we provide simple items that meet our guests’ basic hygiene needs. Our guests often come for a shower and leave with a sense of loving community and support,” Park said. “We’re there with listening ears, authentic smiles and encouraging words, and hugs for those who want them — and there are plenty who yearn for those brief human touches and opportunities for personal conversation and sharing.

Park said that after their guests use their services once, they usually return, often bringing friends.

“The stories we’ve heard, and friendships we’ve made, have been a true gift for not only our guests but for our volunteers and workers.”
To learn more or to volunteer, visit movingwaters-houston.org

— James Ramos contributed to this story.