People without homes currently living in Victoria’s parks will soon have access to a mobile shower service run by the Salvation Army.
City councillors agreed Thursday to contribute $86,000 toward the non-profit agency’s “Shower Power” project.
The one-time grant will cover more than half the cost of purchasing and operating a three-stall shower trailer that can be towed to parks where people are sheltering.
Councillors selected the Salvation Army Addictions and Rehabilitation Centre from a list of 10 agencies seeking money to deliver mobile hygiene and other services.
“For me, the Salvation Army ‘Shower Power’ is the thing that’s going to deliver the best and most service to the most number of people,” Mayor Lisa Helps said.
Money for the grant will come from federal and provincial COVID-19 relief funds.
The city has been struggling for weeks with how best to provide hygiene services to about 200 people sheltering in parks. Council scrapped an earlier plan to open the shower facilities at Royal Athletic Park because the city was unable to find an agency to operate the service.
Then, last month, bylaw officers dismantled two unauthorized showers and a large cistern that a group of volunteers installed in Beacon Hill Park. City officials said wastewater from the showers was entering a storm drain in violation of the sanitary sewer and storm water bylaw.
Salvation Army officials were not immediately available for comment Thursday, but the agency stated in its grant application that the mobile shower service will allow people experiencing homelessness to access hygiene services in a dignified manner.
“Everybody should have the ability to access a warm shower,” the agency said.
The total cost of the project is pegged at nearly $142,000, with the Salvation Army picking up the tab for additional staffing costs, insurance, transportation and fresh clothing for clients.
Councillors requested that the agency provide a monthly report on how often the mobile shower service is deployed and used.
In related moves, council awarded $22,400 to the Umbrella Society for Addictions and Mental Health to provide outreach services to people in the parks.
And James Bay United Church will receive $6,500 to set up a community care tent near Beacon Hill Park where people without homes can connect with outreach teams and pick up food, clothing and other supplies.
A location for the tent has yet to be determined and will have to be approved by the city. Bylaw officers removed an unauthorized care tent from inside the park’s boundaries last month.