A school bus is being transformed into a mobile shower to help Nashville’s homeless get a clean start to rebuilding their lives.
Shower the People is the brainchild of Russ Arnold, a Nashville resident who has been working with people experiencing homelessness for 16 years through Green Street Church of Christ.
“It can seem like one small thing, but it can be a life changer,” he said.
Russ Arnold and his family. (Photo: Submitted)
Arnold and his family saved money to purchase a school bus with the plan to transform it into a mobile shower that Arnold will drive around Nashville.
“It’s more than just a physical need. It’s mental health, self-worth — and a person who’s clean just feels so much better about themselves,” he said.
“I think it will break down a lot of walls that people face getting over the hurdle of homelessness themselves.”
Arnold has teamed up with Lipscomb University for the project. The school’s engineering department offers students opportunities for engineering-focused missions trips in countries including Haiti, Guatemala and Honduras.
“It’s helpful for us to look at the underserved in our own community. This was a golden opportunity to use our engineering skills to help the people here at home,” said Kerry Patterson, mechanical engineering faculty member at Lipscomb. He is the director of the Peugeot Center for Engineering Service to Developing Communities and is overseeing students working on the project.
Patterson and his team at Lipscomb are donating their time to the project and will play the role of project manager, bringing together engineers, an architect and interior designer to transform the bus.
The renovated bus will include two full bathrooms with standup showers, toilets and sinks. Towels and toiletries will also be provided.
Patterson and his team will take on the challenge of making a bus – where students are normally distributed evenly over the entire vehicle – capable of handling two bathrooms where weight will be concentrated in two areas. “The bus isn’t designed for people to be standing up on the floor of the bus in a shower,” he explained. “We’re going to raise the roof in certain places where the shower will be so there will be more room for an adult to stand up and take a shower.”
Two engineering students at Lipscomb have already begun working on the project.
“They don’t get course credit for doing this – this is just something that flows out of their hearts and their passion to help people,” Patterson said. “They’ve had a lot of experience with working in other countries to do this. They are really intrigued by being able to do it here at home.”
A faculty member and student at Harding University in Arkansas have also partnered with Lipscomb to help with the automative engineering on the project.
Arnold said he expects the mobile shower to be up and running in six months or less. He has already received permission from city officials to hook the bus up to fire hydrants around Nashville.
He plans to operate the mobile shower in the afternoon and evening four days a week, since other showers are only available during the day downtown. The bus will also be driven to homeless populations outside of downtown.
“We want to be a resource for people who are trying to get back into a working environment. You have to feel good about yourself before you pursue something like that,” Arnold said.
Volunteers are needed to drive the bus, as well as donations of towels and hygiene supplies. Arnold said that monetary donations are also welcome for purchasing supplies. Contact Arnold at email@example.com to volunteer or make a donation.