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Project Outpour Provides Mobile Showers To Charlotte's Homeless Residents

Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library

A Charlotte nonprofit is providing showers to people experiencing homelessness.

Founded in 2018, Project Outpour provides access to mobile showers and hygiene services to homeless residents of Charlotte. The mobile trailer is outfitted with two bathrooms that each have a shower, toilet, sink, mirror and an electric outlet.

Chief dignity officer Laura Gorecki, who operates the mobile trailer, emphasized the importance of having access to a private space to shower.

“We believe that being clean is a human right, and we want to bring dignity to people moving through homelessness,” she said.

Project Outpour serves the community for two days each week from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. On Tuesdays, the shower trailer is located at First Christian Church in Dilworth, and on Wednesdays, it's at the Allegra Westbrooks Regional Library on Beatties Ford Road.

Project Outpour has been partnered with the library since April, according to library branch leader Hannah Terrell. The library is an important location for the mobile shower because both offer their services for free without requiring guests to submit personal information, Terrell said.

“This particular service doesn’t judge you or ask you (questions), it’s free,” Terrell said. “I think it’s perfectly aligned with our model of access for the community.”

To adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Outpour sanitizes the trailer between guests and uses a company to administer electrostatic spraying, Gorecki said.

In addition to providing showers, Project Outpour also distributes essential supplies and hygiene items including socks, underwear and tampons. Guests are also able to access the internet through a Wi-Fi hotspot provided by the library.

To operate, the mobile trailer requires access to parking space, a water hose, electricity, and a sewer line. The service also needs to receive a permit from the city to use the sewer, a process that can take five to six weeks.

Gorecki said she is interested in expanding services to other locations where people are sheltered, particularly in uptown Charlotte. However, it is difficult to find spaces that can accommodate the trailer, and by the time the trailer obtains a permit, people may have moved to other locations. Ultimately, Gorecki's goal is to have the service operating for four days of the week.

Terrell emphasized the importance of services like Project Outpour that provide resources to people experiencing homelessness, especially because it’s not always obvious who can benefit from the service.

“I think it's important that this particular service gives people the respect and dignity that they deserve as a person, and not judge them for their temporary situation,” Terrell said.

A growing number of Charlotte residents are experiencing homelessness. According to data released by Mecklenburg County, 3,022 people were experiencing homelessness in January. By the end of April, the number increased to 3,263 people.

Project Outpour paused its services last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but resumed operations this March. The organization also had to pause its services at the library last month due to state-wide gas shortages.

Beginning July 1, Project Outpour will provide additional services at the Memorial Methodist Church on Central Avenue each Thursday.

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Kamille Houston is a WFAE intern covering stories grounded in community outreach and engagement. She is currently studying English at the University of Pennsylvania, where she writes on race and equity for the student newspaper The Daily Pennsylvanian.