The Shower Of Hope expands amid homeless crisis in Los Angeles County

SOUTH PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) -- After two years of being homeless, Gabriel Raschkovsky says he looks forward to when The Shower Of Hope's mobile shower trailer pulls up to the Holy Family Church every Wednesday in South Pasadena.

"We get help with food, clothing, but a shower? Nobody offers you a shower," said Raschkovsky.

When Raschkovsky's shower was over, he came out of the trailer saying, "I feel like a million bucks. I feel human again!"

In just two years, The Shower Of Hope non-profit organization has expanded from one mobile shower unit to two, now serving seven locations, with an eighth starting in July: South Pasadena, Huntington Park, Hollywood (second location there shortly), Boyle Heights, Highland Park, Gardena and Montebello.

"It's not the same person that goes in that comes out," said The Shower Of Hope's Executive Director, Mel Tillekeratne. "They're much more confident. They're happy. They have hope. It's about dignity. It's about empowering people to take the next step to a path out of homelessness. When you haven't showered for days, weeks, you don't even approach your friends. What this shower does, is it gives you that confidence to approach people to get back into society."

It comes at tense time for the L.A. region, struggling with how deal with the homeless crisis. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority's latest count, 53,195 people are homeless in L.A. County alone.

"High rents. A lot of the homeless have been kicked out of their places," said Lisa Marie Nava, who is the on-site supervisor for The Shower Of Hope. She speaks with clients who show up at different locations every day.

"A lot of them are still working, and you know it could happen to any one of us," said Nava.

Volunteers also offer free hair cuts at the South Pasadena location, and that's where we met former Hollywood studio prop-maker, Richard McClay, who said he became homeless after facing personal medical hardships and his wife's death.

"Look at me. I didn't expect to be here," said McClay. "I had no way knowing I was going to be out on the streets like this." McClay then pointed to the mobile shower. "When you have this, I feel clean! I feel like a new person."

Tellekeratne is now focused on getting a third mobile shower unit to more communities and wants to create a complete mobile resource center, with a mobile medical clinic, and case management on location to help each person find housing. With women and children also showing up to each shower location, he's launched a #SheDoes movement, for She Does Deserve Shelter and Protection.

"How do we get these women as soon as possible into a place of safety," said Tillekeratne. "You're talking about people who are continuously exposed to sex assault and violence."

Amid the ongoing protests and debate throughout Southern California over where to create temporary housing for the homeless, Tillekeratne is also inviting the public to show up at any Shower Of Hope location to meet the clients.

"Look at the people who sleep in their cars, wake up every morning, and go to work," said Tillekeratne. "There are people who are working. There are people who want to be back on their own feet. They just need a little help."
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