I’ve known Frank and Louise Fargo for years. Or, to be completely honest, my wife has known them for years. I just tagged along.
I knew Frank mostly as an energetic, helpful guy who seemed to enjoy working with the youth at his church, and knew how to fix stuff. This would come in handy.
In 2008, the Fargos bought a used fifth-wheel trailer, which Frank repaired and remodeled, including installing a full-size shower that was fed by an instant hot water heater. In June the first shower was taken.
Let me again be completely honest: It’s possible a shower was taken before June. Maybe a test shower. Sometimes you need those.
Inspired by Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski, and struck by Yankoski’s description of being homeless and going weeks without a shower, the Fargos found something else they could fix.
They formed Shower To The People, a 501(3c) nonprofit that twice a week, Wednesday nights in Everett and Saturday mornings in Lynnwood, offers showers to anyone who needs or wants one, along with toiletries, towels, clothing, etc. Some weeks that means upwards of 65 showers, and they’re approaching a grand total of 9000 over the past 7-1/2 years. That’s the equivalent of one hot shower a day, every day, during that period, for three people. Or nine people, if they reach the 65/week level.
It’s a lot of showers, at any rate. And a lot of soap and shampoo.
It can be easy to let this go unnoticed; a homeless person needs food, shelter, and safety, an immediate fix to a perpetual problem. Hygiene can seem to fit somewhere slightly lower on the list, nice and necessary but maybe not right this minute.
It represents just one of the traps, though, that our homeless population faces every day. How can you go to a job interview, for example, when you haven’t been able to bathe in a week or longer? Or you have to cart around your belongings because you have no place to store them?
How do you save enough to pay deposits and first and last month rents, even if you do have a job, when housing costs are skyrocketing and you live in a car that needs gas and maybe payments and your kids need daycare while you work?
This is a cycle with many moving parts, which we here at REACH are all too familiar with, but the solution also has many parts. We also know this.
So do Frank and Louise. And they know how to fix things.
So they fixed this one thing, as much as they could. They have a new rig now, with two showers. They still show up, twice a week, open for business and open to anyone.
Such a simple thing. Such a complex set of problems. Such a solution, a moving part that actually moves.
Homelessness is a national problem, and a global one, but one that is mostly addressed locally, on our own streets and neighborhoods. This is what REACH tries to do here in the South Sound area. This is what the Fargos are trying to do in Snohomish County. Find a part they can fix, and fix it.
You can read more about Shower To The People at their website, learn their story and what they do. While you’re there, like their Facebook page. As with REACH, the more attention they get, the easier it is to fix the problem.
Because there’s always another problem. They keep moving. So we have to move, too. Something Frank and Louise know all about.