Shower team lead James, with volunteers Poppy, Dan, and Diane (Showers of Blessing Santa Barbara photo)

With the holidays in full swing, now is a great time to think about giving back to our community.

Join Noozhawk this #GivingTuesday and make a donation to your favorite local nonprofit.

Noozhawk is teaming up with local nonprofits to encourage you to take part in this international day of giving, which takes place tomorrow on November 29th, 2022.

It is no secret that these past couple of years have been full of challenges and thats why local nonprofits need your support now more than ever. Our Good for Santa Barbara Nonprofit Section provides all the resources you need to donate this holiday season!

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Jackie Goodman, Development Manager for Showers of Blessing Santa Barbara, to learn more about how the nonprofit is dedicated to helping those experiencing homelessness.

Showers of Blessing Santa Barbara

Question: What is the name & mission of your nonprofit?

Answer: Showers of Blessing Santa Barbara provides free hot showers, fosters compassionate hygienic care, and offers access to critical services for people experiencing homelessness.

Q: How long has your nonprofit been in service and whom was it started by?

A: Showers of Blessing is celebrating its eigth year in operation this month! Showers of Blessing was founded in 2014 by Sandie and Doug Miller, along with a group called HEAL (Healing, Empowerment, and Love).

Q: What was the inspiration behind your nonprofit?

A: Showers of Blessing was started by a group of people who wanted to help restore dignity and well-being to people who lack housing, and offer a place where they can volunteer and participate in the community.

Q: How is your nonprofit primarily funded and what are your greatest needs?

A: Showers of Blessing is sourced by donations from the local community, daily efforts by a team of over 30 volunteers who help run our shower sites, launder our towels, do our bookkeeping and manage our daily business operations, and grants from public and private sources, which helps fund our shower team.
Our greatest need is for community donations to ensure our expenses are met and guests are able to shower at our six weekly shower sessions.

The shower team, Martin, David, and James

The shower team, Martin, David, and James (Showers of Blessing Santa Barbara photo)

Q: What types of fundraisers and/or programs does your nonprofit run?

A: Showers of Blessing Santa Barbara provides free hot showers, fosters compassionate hygienic care, and offers access to critical services for people experiencing homelessness. We provide 7000+ showers to more than 700 guests annually. We operate six shower sessions weekly in Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Isla Vista. (Visit https://showersofblessingsb.org/locations/ for our complete schedule.)

With each shower, guests receive a fresh towel, washcloth, shampoo, soap, conditioner, toothbrush, razor, comb and other implements, mask, wipes, new socks and underwear, (plus replacement clothing, sleeping bag, backpack, as needed and available). A snack and water are also provided. Volunteers provide fresh/warm meals at some sites. Showers of Blessing acts as an informal hub for other service providers. Representatives from Doctors Without Walls, AmeriCorps, CityNet, Salvation Army, SB County mental health, Lifeline, and others, find new clients and arrange to meet existing clients at our sites, helping people upgrade their lives. Showers of Blessing has formal Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with United Way Home for Good, American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and others. Additionally, each month more than 30 volunteers from our community help with registration, record keeping, towel washing, and providing clothing and food.

Showers of Blessing shower sites provide a welcoming environment for guests. Site staff offers guests a warm welcome and extraordinary care, meeting guests where they are, with positive regard and concern for their well-being. Our objective is to help where we can, even if it’s just to listen for a few quality minutes. Sometimes that conversation results in giving new clothes, referring guests to housing programs, mental health, or other services, and encouraging medical treatment if needed. We hope that by demonstrating care we can help restore dignity or simply establish a relationship of trust. We also provide a counterpoint to the hostility and mistrust houseless people experience from others in the community. Three of our staff were formerly homeless (working for Showers of Blessing has enabled them to find housing). They have a lived understanding of, and enduring compassion for, our guests’ challenges.

Based on feedback from guests and observation, we believe that, over time, the shower program changes guests’ beliefs about themselves, the world, and others, and we also believe our program alters our community’s perception of itself by demonstrating care and inclusivity for marginalized people.

Q: How do people get involved/volunteer for your nonprofit?

A: We love our community volunteers! Please visit a site and meet the team, and then reach out to our shower site manager, Wade, via the form on our website to volunteer.

Q: What makes your nonprofit different from others?

A: Showers/hygiene are essential to participating in society; they are a benefit in and of themselves, and they also help people help themselves. After a shower, guests have commented to us, “I can do something for my life now.”

Q: Can you share one or two stories of individuals whose lives have been changed because of your organization?

A: Shower of Blessing has helped many of our guests change their lives. We don’t share too many stories publicly because people need privacy to grow and change. However, we’d love to share our goals, as readers will see how they help, one shower, one guest at a time.

Our primary goal is to provide hygiene for anyone in our community who needs it, conferring myriad mental and physical health benefits, and restoring personal dignity.

Regular access to hygiene is foundational to maintaining physical and mental health and pursuing life-supporting activities. Providing this foundation to an improved lifestyle and greater well-being is also our goal. Without it, it’s difficult for people to maintain hope and reintegrate into the larger community.
Last year we served 7,145 showers to 741 unduplicated guests. We anticipate serving at least as many showers and individuals this year.

One evaluation of the effectiveness of Showers of Blessing is the steady demand for showers at each of our sites. We have grown from 1,500 showers at inception in 2014, to 7,000 showers annually since 2018. Each site serves 25-55 guests per session.

Being clean, and being able to get clean regularly, helps prevent hygiene-related diseases and parasites (hair and body lice, athletes’ foot and fungal infections, bacterial infections from inadequate sanitation and lack of medical care). Our community benefits from addressing these public health problems because left unattended they create misery for our guests and greater expense for the community.

A hot shower also gives an important mental reset. Hot water, as we know, is soothing, and the negative ions created by the falling water literally neutralize inflammation and biochemical stress and let us reset our mental outlook. A shower provides protected private time that may be hard to come by when one is coping with homelessness. It is good for our minds and our bodies to be soothed and restored; it invites the body into rest-and-digest mode, which is the body’s healing mode. It allows the mind to relax as well. We all experience these benefits when we take a shower at home. For many of our guests, it is the best 12 minutes of their week.

The simultaneous availability of a hot shower, food, and friendly support from the community, all given freely; these elements rebuild trust over time, allowing people to begin to reach out for help to improve their lives. Guests see representatives from supportive programs who visit our sites every week (Doctors Without Walls, AmeriCorps, CityNet, SB County Mental Health, others). The familiarity begets comfort and lets guests begin conversations that lead to improving their lives, getting into programs that support them moving forward, finding housing, getting off the street.

It’s not hard to imagine what happens when one can’t get clean; the breakdown of relationships and the ability to interact in society on a very basic level; plus the loss of hope and self-regard.

Our objective is to give our neighbors this basic goodness as the basis for enduring the stresses of living unsheltered or in a camper or vehicle, or as the foundation to improving their lives, which a good portion are attempting to do, holding jobs, and planning for better days.

Q: How does the work of your nonprofit get communicated to the public?

A: Visit us at: https://showersofblessingsb.org. You can find us on Facebook: @ShowersSB and IG: ShowersSB.

Click here to support Showers of Blessing Santa Barbara’s mission to provide hygiene services those in our community experiencing homelessness.

Check out Noozhawk’s Guide to Giving for a full list of nonprofits to donate to this giving season.