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February 18, 2021

The Story Behind Streetside Showers

Streetside mobile shower unit with person

Meet Lance Olinski. Lance is founder of Streetside Showers in McKinney, Texas. Tuesday through Saturday of each week, Lance hauls a shower trailer behind his truck and drives to cities throughout Texas and Florida. His mission: “To offer hope and help restore human dignity to the homeless community in the form of a hot shower and personal hygiene care.”

Lance Olinski

Lance Olinski hard at work. Photo courtesy of Streetside Showers.

Lance started Streetside Showers in 2017. Lance had already been involved in serving homeless individuals in one form or another, but he never considered their barriers to personal hygiene. Lance’s “aha” moment came after seeing a homeless man washing out of a sink at a public restroom. He was moved by the individual’s desperate attempt to get clean. Lance left the restroom that day committed to finding a solution.

Learning the ins-and-outs of mobile services

Mobile businesses such as car washing and dog grooming were among those Lance studied. Then his Google search unearthed Lava Mae in San Francisco, California. Lava Mae was one of the country’s first organizations to offer mobile shower services to homeless individuals. Lance spent four days with Lava Mae, volunteering his time to learn their operations. Lance then took his boots-on-the-ground training and returned home with a concept and design to raise money to get his own shower trailer.

More than a shower

Meeting the basic needs of homeless individuals by providing a hot shower may not seem a big deal to some. But a single shower can transform a life. Lance knows this firsthand. It’s not merely a shower Lance provides. It’s a relationship. Once an individual falls on hard times, Lance says it can take 8-10-12 months to get off the streets. During this time, Lance and his team of volunteers help individuals survive. Food, clothes, haircuts, personal identification . . . whatever it takes to “keep them going.”

For some, one twenty-minute hot shower is all it takes to “feel human again,” according to one homeless individual. “It’s good to know people haven’t forgotten about you,” said another.

Volunteers make it happen

Lance’s biggest challenge is getting enough volunteers to staff the operation. It typically takes three “shower valets” to manage a three-shower trailer. These shower valets are on hand to wash and disinfect stalls after each use. They also handout personal hygiene packets which include clean undergarments. Another group of volunteers pick up baskets of dirty towels and washcloths and clean them at local laundry mats.

That hasn’t stopped Lance from expanding, though. Today, Lance has four shower trailers and serves eight cities. Lance says at the end of the day, what keeps him going are the humble thanks he receives from individuals, some hearty and some shy. Lance also shares an inspiring quote he holds dear: “The purest form of love is demonstrated by a person who loves someone who can give absolutely nothing in return” – Bill Wilson

Note: Standard Textile is partnering with Streetside Showers in efforts to support 80,000 showers by the end of 2021.

Added February 17, 2021: “Severe weather conditions in Texas forced Lance to shut down shower operations during the last two weeks.  He and his team have been working hard to ensure their regular homeless guests are off the streets and in emergency shelters.”