By ANEEKA SIMONIS
THE FROSTY bite of winter is setting in – but homeless and rough-sleepers in the outer south-east will this year find themselves a bit better off with the recent launch of a free mobile shower service.
Inspired by a friend on the street, the ‘Clean as Casper’ portable shower service complements the Kooweerup husband-wife team’s already established laundry service washing and drying homeless people’s clothes as they take a scrub in the warm shower.
Volunteer operator Steve Winterton drives the shower from Pakenham and Cranbourne to Narre Warren, Dandenong and Frankston to provide homeless people with more than just shampoo, conditioner and lotion – but an opportunity to talk.
Every time Steve settles into a new location each night, he will pull out chairs and set them up next to the portable shower and laundry service, operating under the Orange Sky Laundry banner.
It’s his way of telling the community he is there for them – to help get cleaned up or otherwise.
The service, which kicked off in mid-May, is working not only to boost the self-esteem, comfort and dignity of those on the street, but to destigmatise homelessness as a whole.
Its moto: “Sit down, don’t look down” was inspired, like the name, by a man living in south-east streets named Casper.
Steve met Casper following the laundry launch last year.
Despite having so little, Casper would give all he could to the service – including a first-hand tale of social stigma which went on to inspired the innovative mobile shower.
“One of the conversations we had was about how difficult it was to get a shower. How he felt going into public and how people would look at him,” Steve recalled.
“This made me feel incredibly upset that people could look down on a guy like this who had more to give than he had and if they got to know him, they would sit down with him, not look down on him.
“This is where the idea came to make it a goal to not only create a mobile shower for Casper to be sat down with, not looked down on … and so all of our friends can one day experience this.”
Bobby, who lives in Frankston, follows Steve across the south-east for a shower and a chat.
“He is really impressed with it. He follows us around to different location and tells other friends on the street about the service,” Steve said.
Bobby Dee is a vocal fan of the travelling service.
The shower is fitted with a waterproof boom-box for users to pick which song they listen to as they scrub up and their dirty clothes are washed and dried by the accompanying laundry service.
The shower was donor-funded, which included a $15,000 cash injection by a local anonymous business owner.
It is still missing a few components – including an attached change room, generator and most importantly – volunteers.
Once completed, Steve hopes to run the service nightly at the following locations.
Monday: Transit, 4/3 Webb Street, Narre Warren.
Tuesday: Bourke Park, Pakenham (in addition to soon-to-be launched food truck).
Wednesday: City Life, 2 Balmoral Street, Frankston.
Thursday: Cornerstone, 21/11-21 Walker Street, Dandenong.
Friday: Cranbourne Food Truck, Duff Street, Cranbourne West.
Saturday: Cornerstone, 21/11-21 Walker Street, Dandenong.
At the moment, Steve operates the shower service with just one another volunteer.
Donate to the cause via www.cleanascasper.com. If you’d like to contact Steve, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow them on Facebook by searching Clean as Casper.