Streetside Showers offer hygiene and hope to Brevard’s homeless

When John Adams learned how people were washing, he knew he had to do something

While most of us are just getting in the shower, John Adams is parking his.
While most of us are just getting in the shower, John Adams is parking his.

PALM BAY, Fla. – While most of us are just getting in the shower, John Adams is parking his.

Adams is the founder of Streetside Showers of Florida and nearly every Saturday morning you can find him on the side of Port Malabar Blvd. setting up his two stall shower trailer.

The trailer has everything you would find in a typical bathroom and it’s designed to be brought to the homeless population.

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“If you’re living in the woods or living in your car, it’s amazing what a shower means to people,” Adams said.

As the sun began to rise everyone was aware it would be a hot day. Volunteer, Ashly Cochenour, set up a folding table under a tall evergreen tree. “It’s going to be a hot one,” she said.

“What I’m doing now is getting the water and electric hooked up,” Adams said, as he pulled cords and hoses from the storage compartment. “This is like a little camper but converted to a shower.”

Adams and Cochenour work quickly as a small group gathers and waits.

“People will start showing up because they know what time we’re here,” Adams said. " Some are already here waiting.”

In fact, Matthew Duquette arrived the night before. Duquette has been on the streets for about five years and mostly stays in the Melbourne area. He takes an hour-long bus ride every week to get to the showers because he considers them safe and clean.

“When was the last time I had a shower? Last week when I was here,” Duquette responded when asked about his situation. “Sleeping outside isn’t the best situation but if you’re forced to do that, you’re forced to do that.”

Adams’ life changed a couple of years ago when he was on his way to dinner and stopped to talk to a few people he saw by the side of the road. They were camping nearby.

“I asked them where do you bathe and they said Palm Bay Springs. I said, ‘Where is that? It sounds great you can bathe in the spring?’”

That’s when they told him it was just a clever name for the retention pond and canal behind their camp. “I’m like, I have to do something. They have nowhere to bathe and a drainage canal is not bathing.”

That’s when Adams reached out to a friend in Texas, Lance Olinski, who operates Streetside Showers in Dallas. Olinski listened and immediately donated one of his spare mobile two-stall shower trailers.

The trailer can accommodate 30 - twenty minute showers.

The project is sponsored by Health First, Adams’ employer. Streetside showers also partners with other nonprofits to provide food, hygiene items and clothing

It’s been such a success that people who have found homes still stop by for the friendship and community they find around the small two stall trailer.

Lisa Foster said the showers helped her get off the streets. She stopped by to talk with friends. “I’ve met the most wonderful people and they turned my whole life around,” Foster said. “I have a home now and I’m so thankful.”

“I enjoy giving back to people who need help,” Cochenour said between checking people in at the registration table. “Because I know what it’s like.”

Cochenour said she was homeless for years and camped with many of the people here using the showers. Now she’s housed and volunteers every week.

“I enjoy it, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people,” Cochenour said.

“We get to have a social event here every Saturday,” Adams said, looking around at the group. “Every week we make new relationships and it’s so satisfying when people move up. Good things do happen. It’s rewarding to know you made a difference in someone’s life.”


About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.