Last Tuesday outside Borough Hall, Borough President Eric Adams joined Brooklyn Community Services (BCS) to cut the ribbon on the $385,000 unit. The bus is equipped with two stalls, soap, sinks, toilets and benches.
Janelle Farris, executive director and president of BCS, noted that more than 3,000 New Yorkers live on the streets and struggle to get by. In addition to offering them free showers, the mobile unit will provide services like peer counseling, housing support and unemployment resources.
“That simple action of self-care enables more possibilities than we privileged few realize,” she said. “It amplifies our sense of being worthy, of our own hopes and dreams, the simple dignity of a shower.”
Farris added that BCS will build relationships with its nonprofit partners to provide referrals so homeless New Yorkers can access shelter, clothing, housing services and COVID testing.
“This program says we care about humanity, and that we are willing to invest in it for the shared vision,” she said. “That it is possible to create one Brooklyn where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
According to BCS, the initial route will include parts of Sunset Park and Coney Island. It will operate three days a week, and its whereabouts will be tracked on its website. The nonprofit expects to provide 18,000 showers a year.
The project was funded by the borough president’s office, which allocated $308,000, as well as $77,000 from the City Council’s Brooklyn Delegation and sponsorship from Unilever and Con Edison.
Juliet Lewis, corporate affairs manager for Con Ed, said when the company heard about the initiative, they immediately saw the need to help with a multi-year operating grant.
“It will help to fill the gap between government funding and private support,” she said.
Jada Warren and Serenity Dixon, two graduates of PS 5 in Bedford-Stuyvesant who are now in the seventh grade, raised awareness for the initiative. They also raised funds and bought supplies for the shower bus.
“The shower bus started in San Francisco, so I thought, why couldn’t it happen in Brooklyn?” Warren said. “It was my vision that individuals will be able to have the basic need of showering.”
“Everybody deserves the basic right to a shower,” added Dixon. “I couldn’t live with myself if I was the type of person who didn’t want equal rights for everyone.”
Adams praised the two girls for taking the “question marks that lingers over our city” and “straightening them to an exclamation point.”
“Let’s not be detached spectators on the sidelines, watching people in despair,” he said. “Let’s show that we are concerned, that we want to be part of the solution.”
By creating new services like the shower bus, the borough president said, nonprofits are saying that people matter.
“It’s hard to live with dignity if you can’t take care of your basic necessities,” Adams said. “That’s what this shower bus is about.”