As Seattle continues to experience a homelessness crisis, we are committed to ensuring access and opportunities for those living unsheltered. To that end, we have opened showers at several of our community centers to people experiencing homelessness. Last year, we had more than 1,000 usages of our free shower program.
One community center that has been at the forefront of providing outreach to the homeless population is the Delridge Community Center. The center provides a warm and dry place for those experiencing homelessness to rest, charge a phone, access free Wi-FI, and use the computer lab.
Homeless residents have been using the shower facilities at Delridge Community Center for years. The center originally charged a $3 shower fee, but thanks to the advocacy of center staff, the showers became free to use for homeless individuals beginning in 2016.
Staff have conducted outreach to local partners to solicit donations to support the free shower program. Fauntleroy Church and Peace Lutheran Church, as well as other generous supporters, stepped up to provide towels and toiletries. Staff help out by laundering, folding and distributing towels upon request. We also sort out the toiletry donations and have individual bins for shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste and other items.
Delridge Community Center Coordinator Angie Ramirez describes the impact she has seen the center have on the homeless community:
“I believe the impact we have on the homeless community is immense for a variety of reasons. For one, most of the time the homeless residents who use our facility are very gracious. Their gratitude shows with a simple smile, kind words towards our staff, and genuine displays of appreciation.
I believe that after these residents are able to shower, feel clean and valued, they have a more positive outlook on life. We have come to know that many of these patrons have a job but their living situations are complicated. When they are able to come here after work and shower, they are able to go back to work feeling somewhat refreshed the next day.”
“Brenda”, a homeless resident who has recently started to use the shower program and is now also using the center’s weight room since we eliminated drop-in fees, told us she appreciates the fresh clean towels and says, “The staff are always so sweet and make me feel comfortable coming here to use the facilities. It is a great help for us who are less fortunate.”
“Jorge”, another member receiving services at Delridge Community Center says, “I am very thankful that I can come and shower and go to work the next day feeling refreshed. I am sure my boss and coworkers do too”.
As Seattle’s population changes, we are committed to serving the needs of unserved and underserved people and communities. We recently expanded operating hours at several community centers in neighborhoods with limited access to recreation alternatives; beginning this year we made most of our drop-in activities free after hearing from many community members that even small drop-in fees can be a barrier for people with low incomes; and our scholarship program continues to provide low-income individuals and families with discounts to our facilities and services, including classes, swimming, enrichment programs, school-aged child care for before and after school, and much more.