Showers on Wheels are giving London’s homeless people their dignity back

The ShowerBox caravan was purchased second hand from Gumtree in 2018 (Picture:

Every Saturday, just minutes from Tottenham Court Road station in central London, there is always a long queue for a pop-up shower in a caravan.

Auntie Mali, fictitious name, is among the street and hidden homeless people who used the services of ShowerBox at St Giles in the Fields Anglican Parish Church.

‘For the homeless, ShowerBox has become an icon and something to look forward to; also the motivation,” they told Metro.co.uk.

“During the lockdown, everything, everywhere was closed. There were no public restrooms or gymnasiums.

“Showers give everyone a sense of self-respect, they boost self-confidence and dignity, especially in times of lockdown when maintaining hygiene was essential.”

Aunty Mali remembers having to use the services before work meetings so as not to look “scruffy”.

Before showering, they felt “cranky and unmotivated”, but later they would be “more relaxed, recharged and rejuvenated”.

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Showers on Wheels are giving London's homeless people their dignity back

People queue for showers outside St Giles in the Fields (Picture: ShowerBox)

That’s exactly what Sarah Lamptey, a former volunteer for homeless organizations, hoped to accomplish when she created ShowerBox in the fall of 2018.

Inspired by what homeless people told her while she was volunteering, she bought a used trailer in Gumtree with the help of friends and beneficiaries.

The mother-of-one has transformed it into a mobile shower unit, to provide hygiene facilities to some 35 homeless people every Saturday in the capital.

Five years later, the association now provides around 1,500 showers a year to those who need it most.

Sarah, who also works as a TV presenter, DJ and model, says demand for ShowerBox has soared 25% over the past year and she is working to launch it in other parts of London, as well as in Birmingham.

She said: “With everything going on right now, the cost of living and Covid, the demand is going up all the time.

“It’s 100 per cent a situation that’s only getting worse, that’s for sure.”

Showers on Wheels are giving London's homeless people their dignity back

Sarah Lamptey transformed the old caravan into a shower unit with the help of volunteers (Picture: ShowerBox)

Between April and September, 5,712 people were recorded as rough sleepers in the capital, a 21% increase from 2021, so his estimates aren’t far off.

Government statistics for the first quarter of 2022 also revealed that the percentage of Londoners living in temporary accommodation was eight times higher than the rest of England.

ShowerBox volunteers do not ask visitors for any personal data, other than a name to put on the shower list.

Sarah pointed out that this is one of the main factors behind the charity’s popularity, and around 95% of the people they see every Saturday are regular users, 90% of whom are men.

“People can just come in, put their name on the list, and then come back for their allotted time,” she said.

“We also donate toiletries, new underwear, period products and hot drinks. We have caregivers and people cut their hair which is really lovely.

“There are individuals we have known for years.

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“They showered with us before Covid, during the pandemic and into 2023.

“I can’t believe that during Covid signs were put up – which are also still there – in many parks saying the park is not a toilet, as if a human would choose to go to the toilet in a park if he had another option.

“Similarly, codes put on the toilet – I can’t believe a human being can put a code on the toilet, so another human being can’t use the toilet. It’s just confusing to me.

“And the very idea of ​​ShowerBox is ‘simple boosts for big changes’. Who knows what impact a shower can have on someone’s day and behavior.

Sarah, who has never experienced homelessness herself, wanted to fill the gap of what homeless people really need in London.

She says charities across the country contact her daily to inquire about the ShowerBox.

Over the years of her volunteering, she has noticed a marked change in some users of the service.

“We’ve had quite a few people come out of the showers over the years and say they feel human again, which just gives me the creeps.” Sara said.

“There are so many reports of homeless people feeling and being dehumanized, attacked, and they are so vulnerable.

‘For them to say they feel human again, I don’t think I can imagine better than that.

“There are also people who come for the company, which is really heartbreaking.”

Sarah is currently focused on expanding ShowerBox’s services and wants to set up a laundry service where homeless people can have their clothes cleaned.

It is also converting an old shipping container into a double shower room to open a second branch in east London.

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