Although taking a hot shower and doing laundry is a common occurrence for most people, there is a rising homeless population in Hillsborough County that doesn’t have that option. Fortunately, there is a solution. Paul Schmitz and his wife, Rhonda Schmitz, launched ShowerUp in the Nashville area in 2016, and it is available locally. ShowerUp is a mobile outreach that provides hot showers and laundry services to people in need. In most cities, there are resources for those experiencing homelessness to receive meals, clothing and other necessities, but the Schmitz family realized that there are very few places to get a hot shower and take care of basic hygiene.
“Like most of the cities that we launch in, we were invited to come to Tampa Bay by someone who has seen the need and reached out to us,” said Paul. “Tampa Bay is a similar size to our first city, Nashville. There’s also a sizable number of people who are experiencing homelessness and who don’t have access to a shower on a regular basis.”
ShowerUp held two events last month where it provided 30 showers and supplied toiletries, hygiene and other needed items.
“Sometimes, the biggest need is just for friendship, relationship and community,” said Paul.
Because ShowerUp is mobile, it is able to go to multiple locations throughout the course of a week. The goal is to establish a regular schedule with multiple locations.
“As of right now, we have locations set up at Bread of Refuge in Brandon and with Feeding Tampa Bay,” said Paul. “We are working to add additional locations as well.”
Ultimately, ShowerUp will establish full-time operations in Tampa Bay and hopefully purchase a new mobile unit that will have showers and a mobile laundry.
“Our costs to purchase the equipment and operate for the whole first year full time is $228,000,” said Paul. “Until we reach that goal, we have been able to start part-time operations with a mobile shower unit that we had been using in one of our other cities. It doesn’t have mobile laundry, but it does have three private shower suites, air conditioning and unlimited hot water.”
ShowerUp has raised 30 percent toward its full-time goal. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, it relies on individuals, families, churches, businesses and local foundations for support.
“We are looking for collaborative partners who we can come alongside,” said Paul. “We love to team up with other groups and nonprofits who are doing amazing things like providing meals, clothing, haircuts, etc. One of the things that we love is involve as many people as we can in our outreach. Whether it’s through financial support, volunteering, taking care of needs on our Amazon Wish List or building shower kits for us, we love to work with the community.”
Donations can be made at https://showerup.org/ and can be designated for ShowerUp Tampa Bay. The shower location schedule can also be found on the website. Follow ShowerUp on Facebook at ShowerUp Tampa Bay and Instagram @showeruptampabay.