By Sarah Toce

In conjunction with Shower to the People, Burien advocacy group Transform Burien will once again offer on-site mobile shower units free of charge this Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

Guests partaking in the showers are also invited to enjoy a free meal while attending the community event.

How It Started

Husband and wife team Frank and Louise Fargo said they were inspired to start Shower to the People in 2008 after reading Mike Yankoski’s “Under the Overpass.” Yankoski described his volunteer journey into homelessness as answering a call from God, detailing the many obstacles, dangers and difficulties he faced while being homeless – including showering.

In June 2007, the Fargos offered their first free showers during Dinner at the Bell in Everett, hosted by First Presbyterian Church. Soon after, Shower to the People became a regular part of Neighbors in Need at Trinity Lutheran in Lynnwood every Saturday.

In 2015, the original trailer used at the start of the business was replaced with a trailer possessing two full-size showers, each with an instant hot water tank so that every shower provided to guests would be hot. Shower to the People estimates they have provided the community with 20,000 free showers over the past 12 years.

How It’s Going

The Fargo family’s shower service at Transform Burien on Friday includes towels, wash cloths, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, underwear, socks, and a shirt. Toiletries, clothes, sleeping bags, blankets, hats, and other items will also be distributed to attendees as needed.

Transform Burien Outreach Director Paul Ott said he visited the Ambaum encampment to aid as many people as possible since many do not utilize the organization’s services regularly.

“I would be so happy if we had 20 people attend this Friday,” Ott said. “I connected with the people on Ambaum and am offering a free shower, free meal and a ride back if they would like to attend Friday.”

Transform Burien regularly serves three free meals per week every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from 12 p.m. until 2 p.m. On Wednesdays and Fridays there are food and clothing banks accessible to attendees, also free of charge.

No Strings Attached

Ott said that Transform Burien does not accept government funding and relies solely on the organization’s relationships within the community and the generosity of volunteers and donors.

“We are supported by local churches and private citizens,” Ott shared. “I always like to try to enter into a cooperative relationship and make it mutually beneficial.”

An example is the group’s relationship with the Highline Area Food Bank

“Highline Food Bank is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays so on the days they are not open and receive donations, they give them to us,” Ott said. “When I pick up donations on Thursdays, recently we’ve been getting cases of romaine lettuce hearts and I don’t have fridge space to store all of those, I call the Highline Food Bank and run it over to them.”

“A lot of times when you accept government funding, there are stipulations that go along with it and we prefer to be unrestricted by those things,” Ott added. “It gives us the freedom to be able to do our programming as we see fit.”

Shower to the People and Transform Burien have agreed to work together to bring free showers into Burien through the end of 2023 on the third Friday of every month. A continuation of this arrangement might be possible, but unconfirmed as of publishing date.

Transform Burien is located at 15623 Des Moines Memorial Drive S, Burien, WA 98148 (at the south entrance of the old Sunnydale School building):

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Sarah has been in media and publishing for over 15 years and previously served as the president of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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