By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Relief on wheels will soon be on its way to help the homeless population in the Twin Cities. It’s called the DRIP mobile shower. Volunteers who are skilled with steel and have a desire to help the unhoused plan to bring it to encampments this summer.

When it’s a labor of love, the work isn’t a grind. It’s a purpose.

“It’s where I want to be; it’s what I want to be doing,” said Chris Clements as he sat in a South Minneapolis welding shop, a place he’s spent many hours over the winter.

When the pandemic started in 2020, he became a stay-at-home parent. He wanted to make the most of his free time in a meaningful way. That meant frequent stops at homeless encampments around Minneapolis, delivering meals, showing compassion, and finding out what was missing.

“It’s just like, a shower would go a long way,” he thought.

With help from other volunteers including his neighbor, they envisioned the DRIP mobile shower. The rendering photos show what looks like an ice fishing house, and technically that’s what the steel base is modeled after. However, inside it will have four separate shower stalls and a fifth big enough to accommodate families and people with disabilities.

(credit: CBS)

“I am so honored and pleased to be able to host this project in my shop here,” welder Rah Borgatta said.

Borgatta is part of the non-profit Sisters Camelot, which is dedicated to feeding the hungry. She also spent weeks helping people in need at the Powderhorn Park encampment in 2020.

“People don’t understand that so many of these folks are just like you and me,” she said.

During her time at Powderhorn, she recalled a mobile shower stopping by occasionally, however she said it wasn’t suited to handle the large number of people. She did however witness what it meant for someone living out of a tent to have a few minutes to get clean. It wasn’t about just hygiene, but also peace of mind.

“Just to have like a few moments to like warm your bones make such a difference. Then take it to our extreme summers where it’s so hot and muggy and sweaty, you just want to like wash, there is great need for it,” she said.

Clements wants the experience of showering in their unit to feel like a hotel stay, not a mobile locker room.

“We want our shower to have dignity and integrity and that like you can go in, you’re walking into some place that’s clean. It doesn’t feel like it’s been used 10 times that day,” he said.

After grinding the rubber coating off the frame, the next step is to weld the steel walls to it. They’ll then add the hot water tank. Clements anticipates the project to speed up in the weeks ahead.

They’ve already raised close to $19,000 to fund the effort with the goal of raising about $10,000 more. Organizers have started the paperwork to make DRIP a non-profit, allowing them to apply for grants and solicit donations from corporations.

Until then, Clements and the other volunteers will continue grinding away the hours at the shop hoping their effort sparks others to join their mission.

“We all need help sometimes and that’s really just where these folks are at. They ran into hard times and they need a little help up,” said Borgatta.

Jeff Wagner