On 7 May 2022, approximately 80 volunteers had the opportunity to join the Street Shower – an initiative that serves the homeless, widows and orphans in Springs, Johannesburg.
The community of Springs came together, trying to restore dignity with love through the Street Shower initiative. Street Shower is a non-profit organisation based in Gauteng, which provides mobile hot showers and personal hygiene care to those in need. This great initiative started when a couple from Pretoria saw the need to offer the homeless in their community a hot shower, haircut and a hot meal. They revamped an old trailer, transforming it into a shower with a small area where they can offer their services. Every weekend they would drive and park their trailer in a different area to support as many people as they could. They quickly realised that the need was far bigger than anticipated and needed assistance to serve the community. Thus, the Street Shower initiative came to fruition. They initiative completely relies on donations and volunteers.
A week before each Street Shower event, volunteers print and distribute invitations to the homeless, advising them of the upcoming event date, time and location.
The day starts off with set-up at 5:00am, to prepared for the arrival of its special guests. There are different workstations where individuals register and volunteer their specific skills in person, if they haven’t already done so. These stations vary from manning the entrances, to ushering, making coffee and tea, ministering and counselling, managing the showers and clothing, assisting with hair and nails, baking pancakes, serving of food and waitering at the banquet hall, medical assistance and creation and printing of CVs.
The official Street Shower runs from 7:00 am - 15:00 pm. Upon arrival, individuals register, and receive a name tag and registration number. This enables Street Shower to keep track of how many people they assisted during the day and to create a database of individuals that may require further assistance and support
After registration, individuals are welcomed with a warm cup of coffee and pancakes, and placed into groups of ten. The ushers take each group, in turn, to the various stations, starting with the medic station, where they receive a check-up and have small cuts or wounds tended to. Those who cannot be treated by the medical staff on-site receive referral to the nearest clinic or state hospital.
From the medic station, groups are ushered to the hair and nails station, where they receive a haircut and the men can choose to shave. They receive a manicure and pedicure, before moving to the shower and clothing stations. There they select and receive a fresh set of clothes, shoes, new socks and underwear. Showers are limited to 5 minutes per person to ensure everyone gets a nice hot shower.
After showering, ministering and counselling is offered, as well as CV-creation skills for those that may require it. At the CV station, photos are taken of each individual and printed on a standard CV template that is completed, printed and laminated by the volunteers. From there, each person goes to the banquet hall for a tasty home cooked meal. Children are invited to choose toys and mothers with babies receive baby clothes and blankets.
Mercia van Schalkwyk, Graphic Designer for Multotec Group Marketing, shared her thoughts on the initiative: “This was really such a soul enriching and humbling experience for me. I volunteered for the day at the CV station; to see the number of people that never had the opportunity to finish primary school or high school, or never received higher education, left me gob-smacked and heart sore. I met people with amazing qualifications, who just can’t find work. Others were brave enough to admit they have a criminal record with a substance abuse problem – this was just heart breaking.
Every day, I wake up with a new appreciation for life. If you have finished matric, had the privilege of completing a higher education, currently have a job: consider yourself blessed, because the 176 people we assisted that during the Street Shower event cannot say the same.
Of all the people I met that day, three really stood out. Alina, a domestic worker and care worker for the elderly. Her employers divorced during the COVID-19 pandemic and lost her permanent employment, after having worked for them for 15 years. I hope and pray she has found work and a safe place to stay. Then there’s Alex, who lost his job during COVID-19. He is a qualified forklift and excavator operator seeking employment. What a great and humble soul. Finally, a 26-year-old that had fallen into gangsterism and is in the grips of substance abuse. He finished matric and completed a higher education programme but can’t hold down a job and is living on the streets. He left me in tears, wishing I could help him realise that he is squandering away his life. I hope he finds his way home."