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“We Care About You” Shower Project

 

Bath twice a day to be really clean, once a day to be passably clean, once a week to avoid being a public menace.

-Anthony Burgess

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Johnny Merizalde,

                                                                                               Shower Project Caretaker

 

THE TURNING POINT SHOWER PROJECT

The Shower Project is the gateway to mental and physical well-being for many Turning Point clients. A community outreach initiative, the project invites the homeless in for a shower, change of undergarments and a hot beverage. A washing machine is also available, as is access to detergents.  It’s a simple service, but one that is irreplaceable to the hundreds of people the project serves.

Hear our story first hand, through the eyes of Johnny, a Turning Point client turned volunteer.

 

OUR IMPACT

  •  Each month we offer more than 600 showers to members of the Brooklyn community.
  • In 2011, the shower project was the gateway to Turning Point for 3,000 individuals.
  • In 2011, 7,200 under garments were provided to Brooklyn’s homeless.

They took away Johnny’s key to the shower. Imagine, a 60 year old man sneaking into Turning Point, at night and on weekends, just to keep the shower open. You’d hardly imagine there was such need to require the clandestine action of a former addict. Enough need to necessitate rebellion in order to keep the showers open a few more hours. You’d think there are better things to fight for. Johnny knows better. He knows a lot.

Thanks to Turning Point, Johnny knows sobriety, stability and the love of family but he also knows homelessness and the indignity of slowly being erased from every pleasantry of life. He knows the stares of judgment and what it is like to wear your economic failings as dirt, grime and stains on your person. Johnny knows the life firsthand, but he also knows how to start a new. He found a fresh start at Turning Point, after a detour into the unsavory, following the unexpected death of his wife. Today he is not only healed, but gives back to others by helping them to begin their journey to sobriety, stability and greater well-being.

Johnny runs the shower project at Turning Point. In the scheme of things, giving back by providing showers to Brooklyn’s couch-homeless might not seem like much, but it stops the alienation and provides a bridge to the vast service offerings available from Turning Point and its associated providers. Visiting for a shower is far less threatening then accessing other services, such as: drug and alcohol rehabilitation, HIV testing, medical or mental health assistance, educational or job assistance, perhaps even housing assistance. Trust grows out of the gift of a shower and clean underwear. The grime of the street is cast away and the invitation to rejoin the fullness of society is offered time and time again with each visit. The success of the program is embodied in the warmth of the seating area in which patrons savor coffee and cake after their shower. It’s a taste of the normality of life before returning to the harsh outside.

Lyndon Johnson said, “Every man has a right to a Saturday night bath.” It’s a human dignity to which each of us is entitled, the opportunity to wash away what is old and unwanted and to start again. Metaphorically and physically, this is what the Turning Point Shower Project brings to more than 600  individuals each month. It’s a temporary pleasure that is fundamental to the ability to go on, to find the strength to improve, and to never believe you’re completely defeated. This is the importance of the Shower Project, a gateway of hope and a connection to life as it should be. It’s the gift that saved Johnny and one that he works with Turning Point to give back.

 

GET TO KNOW JOHNNY

Johnny is a different man today. He was introduced to Turning Point as a condition of parole following almost two years spent in jail on drug charges.  His introduction may have been court mandated, but he has remained engaged year after year by choice. Today he is a loving grandfather or two and gives much to the community through his role as a Shower Project volunteer.

 

Every man has a right to a Saturday night bath.
-Lyndon B. Johnson

If you go long enough without a bath, even the fleas will leave you alone.
-Ernie Pyle

There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.
-Sylvia Plath