Revamped "Fresh Start" mobile showers are now open for use in City Heights at the Wesley Community Services Center. People experiencing homelessness can utilize the two-shower mobile facility twice a month.
Think Dignity, the non-profit that created the mobile shower units, had to shut down the showers when the pandemic began out of the safety of the homeless.
With restrictions lifting and the county making its return to normalcy, the organization reached out to the University of San Diego (USD) Changemaker Hub, a student group at the university. Think Dignity wanted to see if the students could use their annual "Changemaker Challenge" to find a solution and make the mobile showers COVID-19 safe.
Merlynn Watanabe, the Programs and Operations Manager at Think Dignity, said she partnered with USD to learn how students see homelessness.
“Being able to work with a current student and creating these solutions through the mobile shower trailer, it was so inspiring to see because it was building that connection within USD but also seeing how anyone from any field, any practice, any discipline can contribute to ending homelessness and contribute to creating those human-centered changes when addressing homelessness,” Watanabe said.
Matteo Tousignant Hernandez, a recent graduate from USD Mechanical Engineering, helped bring the challenge's winning idea to life. He focused on redesigning the mobile showers with new COVID-19 cleaning procedures in place.
Hernandez developed a new air handling system to ventilate the space every 1 to 2 minutes while creating a misting system that disinfects every surface in the shower unit within 30-60 seconds, in between guests.
"Being able to utilize my USD engineering education to actually do something that's going to help people restore dignity within their lives is something that is amazing to me," Hernandez said.
During Think Dignity's "Fresh Start" reopening on Thursday, June 24, USD's Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science partnered with Champions for Health to provide homeless community members with COVID-19 vaccinations in addition to free shower usage.