Give Now

Just a Little Bit of Love

Brooke could not stop smiling. After spending the past year and a half living in a small white Sedan with her husband and three young children, she and her family were finally accepted into a housing program. Although her life was about to change, Brooke still had boundless gratitude for the organizations that helped her along the way, such as Showers of Blessings.

“Showers of Blessings is an awesome operation because there are no strings attached,” said Brooke. “Many of the other shelters or places to get showers are men only or women only and, I have three kids, which meant it was nearly impossible to find a place to get a shower until we heard of Showers of Blessings. It is really the only option for families and I am full of gratitude because it changed my life.”

Showers of Blessings began in 2014 as the result of the sale of the University Religious Center at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) that left Christ Lutheran Church of Goleta with funds to purchase a two-shower trailer. The pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Rev. Ron Cox, contacted Rev. Doug Miller of the First Baptist Church, who was known for his work with the homeless community in Isla Vista, to take ownership of the project. By 2015, the project supplied approximately 1,500 showers to homeless individuals and began expanding to locations outside of Isla Vista, primarily other churches, making it an interfaith project.

“The great thing about Showers of Blessings is it is a learning opportunity for everyone,” said Ken Ralph, General Manager for Showers of Blessings. “It not only bridges the gap between the homeless and those who volunteer for the homeless, but it also allows volunteers to come together to overcome differences in faith and background and learn that, if we all come together as a community to put people first, we can actually make a true difference.”

Today, Showers of Blessings offers showers five days a week at locations in Goleta, Isla Vista, and downtown Santa Barbara and provided 10,000 showers in 2017. In addition to showers, the program has also started providing lunches, haircuts and clean clothing to the homeless. Many others who serve the homeless population, such as AmeriCorps, Santa Barbara County nurses and St. Vincent de Paul, also come to the Showers of Blessings sites to offer services and resources to some of the toughest cases.

“Our clients are generally some of the hardest cases, who often couldn’t get a bed in a shelter or have drug and alcohol problems and nowhere else to go and are on the street,” said Ralph. “With approximately 1,100 homeless in downtown Santa Barbara and only 430 shelter beds, this problem is only going to continue to get worse. That is why our mission is, no matter what a person has done or is dealing with, we can offer one act of love and provide simple dignity of allowing someone to take a shower.”

The Santa Barbara Foundation provided Showers of Blessings with a Timely Opportunities grant to help it expand its downtown locations and bring showers to more individuals this winter, specifically because the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission and PATH Santa Barbara are going through structural changes that will limit the number of shelter beds they can provide this winter.

“Showers of Blessings was started based on survey data and, after a bed, the number two thing that homeless individuals said they wanted was a shower,” said Ralph. “The third most important thing to homeless individuals was having a sense of purpose, which is why we also offer 5-7 homeless people a small stipend to assist our only staff member, Linda McDaid, in daily operations. It not only restores basic human dignity and self-confidence, but it also creates a sense of community, which is really what we all crave – just a little bit of love.”

For more information about the Santa Barbara Foundation’s Timely Opportunities, please contact Kathy Simas, ksimas@sbfoundation.org.

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