Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Keeping clean

May 01 2021
The ShowerBox team set up in their usual spot at St Giles Church, central London. © ShowerBox The ShowerBox team set up in their usual spot at St Giles Church, central London. © ShowerBox

ShowerBox was set up to provide homeless people and people sleeping rough with a simple, yet difficult to find service: A free and secure shower. Interview by Sheryle Thomas

When I was street homeless, I found it really difficult to access places to have a shower. Homeless centres that receive government funding are inaccessible until you have a local connection of six months. How can you get a local connection when you are homeless? It's extremely difficult and it’s yet another government restriction that isn't helping homeless people. Luckily there is now an outreach service for rough sleepers that provides showers. ShowerBox helps with mental and physical health and – importantly – keeping clean, especially with Covid-19.

I spoke to the founder of ShowerBox, Sarah Lamptey.


Why did you set up ShowerBox?

I used to be a volunteer for the Simon Community, and individuals who had been homeless in different parts of the world spoke to me of the extra challenge in London because of lack of access to showers. Two years ago, I started to work out what I could do to help. Quaker Homeless Action was running a winter shelter at the American International Church in 2018 and needed showers, so I fundraised, bought an old trailer and renovated it. Fast-forward two years and my volunteers now run showers from the trailer each Saturday at St Giles-in-the-Fields Church, near Tottenham Court Road tube station, between 10am and 3pm. It's a drop-in service and there are free showers and towels provided as well as toiletries and other essentials like Tricky Period packs – full of period products for women.


How does it work? Where do you get supplies?

We run on JustGiving donations and we've received two grants from other charities, too. Ecover sponsors us with cleaning products, and Greggs gives us unsold baked goods each Saturday morning. We are given hot water from the neighbouring coffee shops so we can give out hot drinks, too. Malcolm, who runs MLJ Cleaning company, cleans our towels each week for free and we couldn't do it without him! Also we are often donated clothing, and sometimes given sleeping bags and shoes to give out, too.


What sort of response have you had?

We have had a really positive response from our guests, donors and fellow voluntary groups. There has been some resistance though. A few local councillors argue that efforts should focus solely on getting individuals off the streets, not providing hygiene facilities. My response is that they should be working to get individuals into accommodation! But what happens in the meantime? I believe that mental and physical wellbeing is at the centre of whatever we humans work towards. I think every day matters in one's journey, and if we can help even one person have a more comfortable, healthier day, then that is what we want to do.


Why does it work so well?

I am lucky enough to have a core group of volunteers who help each week, alongside the other groups in the area who I connect with regularly such as the Simon Community, Street Storage, Streets Kitchen, Tricky Period and the Museum of Homelessness. We also have returning faces who come to shower each week who help us set up, so it works well as we all work together.


What are your hopes for the future?

I have a double shower room for installation, which we have started to create out of a ten-foot shipping container, and also a huge solar power shower donation from eco company Navitron which I am working to install and run safely in London.

I'd love to make a community wellbeing and shower garden, with showers at the centre, and work with local groups to make it happen. The public baths that used to exist in this city were community hubs and I'd like this green space to work to revive that sense of unity.

  • ShowerBox runs weekly sessions on Saturday from 10am – 3pm at St Giles Church, London.
  • Visit their website for more info: www.showerbox.org
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