Community-Minded Hawaiian Couple Give The Homeless A Way To Feel ‘Human’ Again With Mobile Showers
Craig Shoji and his wife Danica help the homeless “feel like normal people” again with their mobile shower service. According to the couple’s website, it all started during a mission trip they took with their church back in 2015. They were so moved by the plight of the homeless individuals they served, that they decided to continue their efforts when they returned home.
A Life-Changing Vacation
In June of 2015, Craig and Danica Shoji joined the First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu on a mission trip to San Francisco. There, in the low-income Tenderloin neighborhood, they experienced homelessness up-close. According to an article in the NY Times, the sidewalks of this particular San Francisco community “have come to resemble a refugee camp”: Covered with human waste and littered with used syringes.
Seeing people live like that was more than the Shojis could bear. “I was walking down the street and there was a houseless individual there,” Craig told Good Morning America. “I just told him, ‘Good morning,’ and he was kind of surprised that I said that to him because no one ever says anything to him.” After the experience, Craig exclaimed how “it’s important to just treat people like normal people.” The couple believed this was their opportunity to do some good in the world (albeit, a little closer to home).
The Birth Of A Business
Upon returning to their home in Hawaii later that month, the Shojis started their business. The first iteration of the not-for-profit, called “Laundry Love,” provided clean clothes to homeless individuals in their Honolulu neighborhood. Through a partnership with a local service, the couple would cover the cost of laundering whatever clothing the individuals had. While the garments were going through the cycle, the Shojis would also provide a hot meal – and some much-needed companionship.
Today, Laundry Love still exists, but under the leadership of Laura Kay Rand. The Shojis now spend their time focusing on Revive + Refresh – a mobile trailer with two showers that they take to events in and around Honolulu. The truck was debuted during a city press conference in 2018 where Danica told KITV Islands News, “We’re just trying to help where we can. For us, it’s a blessing to be able to bless other people.” Like always, the couple is there to lend an ear to anyone that has a story to share
So, who exactly are the Shojis helping? According to Hawaii News Now, 46 in every 10,000 Hawaiian residents are homeless – the highest rate in the nation as of 2018. At the time, Hawaii also had the nation’s fourth-highest rate of unsheltered homeless people (roughly 53% of homeless people were living on the streets) and was one of only five states where the rate of homelessness among veterans had risen.
Revive + Refresh Today
Revive + Refresh received a five-year city contract for $400,000 in 2018. According to Craig, $150,000 of that was immediately used to purchase the truck and trailer. “That leaves us $50,000 a year for the next five years.”, he said. “Every time we take the truck and trailer out on the road there is a fixed cost which the city contract won’t cover. We need to raise – on our own – an additional $150,000 a year to fund this project.”
When homeless or poverty-stricken individuals visit the trailer, they are given 15 minutes inside and provided with hot showers, toilet facilities, and basic toiletries such as shower and hand gels. After their shower, each person is given the opportunity to enjoy a hot meal. To date, more than 460 people have used Revive & Refresh’s facilities, and more than 250 people have used their showers.
The best part of the experience? “Just to see their faces when they come out, it’s like a different person,” Craig said.
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