My heart welled up inside of my chest when a guest came off the bus.…
I first met Jeanne through my wife, Katrina, they had met through mutual friends. One day, Jeanne came by the house to see Katrina, Jeanne shared her vision of building mobile showers to give people presently on the street a place to clean up. After Jeanne left, Katrina spoke to me about her dream and asked if I would help with building Grace. Of course I said “yes,” not knowing for sure if it would ever come true. The more I talked to Jeanne the more I could tell she was true to what she was saying. Soon, I was all in.
One day, Jeanne called me and told me she had found a Miami tour bus for sale and we went to take a look at it. I took a few measurements and put my brain to work. I started thinking how I was going to put two bathrooms, a washer and dryer on the bus. After some time I realized we could actually do this and I let Jeanne know. Jeanne negotiated with the seller and made a deal to buy the bus.
We had a buying price but we still needed to raise the money to purchase it. Jeanne quickly organized fundraisers and in weeks we had enough money. The girl was on fire! The next thing I knew, the bus was at Jeanne and her husband, Bob’s, place. Next, they got to work removing the seats and emptying the interior of the bus for me to get started.
There was a lot of measuring and remeasuring. I marked the floor to check and double check what would fit. One of the first things that changed was that there would be no washer and dryer. It was a priority from the start to build a fully self contained bus that could carry its own water. In order to have enough room for the holding tanks, we had to forgo the washer and dryer. I had asked Dave Bundy, a friend of mine who is an electrician and a plumber, to help me work on the project as I needed someone to bounce my ideas off of, not to mention a bit of help.
Once the design was pretty well set, we needed material to do the job. I spoke to some of the trade partners I had worked with over the years, Rosen Supply, ABC Drywall, Ridgeway Plumbing, and Saniflo (who gave us the macerating toilets). These companies were so generous. With these companies’ donations, we had most everything needed to start building the two bathrooms, one standard and one handicapped.
One of the first things we installed was the 300 gallon fresh water and black water tanks. They were the largest item and had to go in the back of the bus. Jeanne found two tanks, so we picked them up and installed them. Next came the framing of the walls. We measured the layout based on the two fiberglass shower pans, two lavatory sinks with faucets, donated by Paul Wilson, and the two toilets that were donated. The walls went up with help from Dave, Bob, and Alan.
The First Mobile Shower Bus of its Kind
Since there were no ready made blue prints to follow, it took a lot of planning and manufacturing parts to make everything fit and work. Anything we could not buy, we had to invent, make and install ourselves. To make the bus fully self contained, we needed a generator, donated by Absolute Engineering. We also installed a water pump, pressure tank and a water heater, donated by Don’s Plumbing. To make it all come together, we of course needed a lot of wiring, plugs and we also installed timers for the showers.
RC, Jeanne’s son, built a rack on the front of the bus to hold the generator. Once the bus was about ready to run, we decided the handicapped entrance would be the main entrance to the bus. The bus came with a handicapped lift but we wanted stairs to avoid using the lift every time. RC came up with a solution and built stairs to enter and exit the bus safely.
As you can see, building the mobile shower bus was a team effort. It took volunteers, partners and donors to make this happen, many thanks to all the people who helped along the way. It also took a lot of weekends and head scratching to complete the bus. Jeanne named the bus “Grace,” and she is now up and running. As a self contained bus, Grace can give up to 50 showers at a time, however, if she’s hooked up, she can give unlimited showers. I want to thank the founders of Showering Love, Jeanne, Joe, and Carla. Thank you for letting me be a part of it all.