For the ADN: What it means to take a shower when you’re homeless


(This is the first time I’ve written something for the Dispatch News since the name and ownership changed. It feels good to write about Anchorage for Anchorage readers. I’ve missed it….)

Early Tuesday morning, 11 men and a woman stood on the concrete steps outside Anchorage’s Downtown Soup Kitchen. The night before, they’d slept in tents, in cars, abandoned buildings and on shelter mats. But that morning they were lucky. They were about to get a shower.

There are only a few places in Anchorage a person living on the street can take a shower for free. Brother Francis is one. The Rescue Mission is another. The Soup Kitchen shower house opens to a group of 12 twice a day. Each person is entitled to 20 minutes of hot water in a private bathroom, shampoo, shaving cream, lotion and sunscreen. The morning group may also have their clothes washed by volunteers. People sign up in advance and look forward to it.

“Take a shower, change my T-shirt. You know, you feel clean, you feel better about yourself,” said Nick Makaily, a 57-year-old in a ball cap, a regular. He’s been sleeping in a homeless camp since January, he said.

Anchorage’s homeless population is highly visible in some respects — most recently in news stories about crime and loitering in Town Square Park — but people standing outside the shower house this week described feeling invisible. Looking dirty, especially, marks you as different, they said. People look right through you.

 

Read the rest here.

 

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Julia O’Malley is a journalist who lives in Anchorage. She writes about culture, family, home, the environment and food in Alaska.

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