The Oxford Shower Project

Central Oxford, England

Inspired by Amma’s vision of a world wherein everyone selflessly and compassionately serves their fellow man, devotees in England have begun running a public shower for the homeless in Central Oxford. Unlike in India, there are no temple ponds, rivers, or public taps were any one can bathe freely in England.

The idea of running a shower came when they approached Gatehouse, a local homeless organization, and asked them if there was any niche in their services that they could usefully fill. Gatehouse told them that a shower was lying idle in a church hall in central Oxford.

“A shower can mean so much if you are homeless. Finding a place to wash can be very difficult,” says Stuart Walters, one of the devotees helping with the service.

In the end, the devotees wound up running the shower in partnership with Gatehouse. The program began in January 2008.

The shower service provides free showers in a safe, clean and caring environment every Saturday between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. The shower is located in a small room with a wash basin and toilet. There is only one shower. Up to seven homeless people can be accommodated in the two hours they are open. The devotees provide towels, shower gel, a razor, tooth paste/tooth brushes and sanitary towels. They also offer tea and coffee and a snack pack, comprising a cheese roll, a banana, a bag of crisps, chocolate biscuit and a small bottle of juice.

Oxford’s homeless learn of the showers through flyers handed out at homeless centres, posters and word of mouth.

In the future, the devotees hope to also start providing new clothes and more food, as well as increase the number of days a week the shower is open.

“It is particularly rewarding to watch them after the shower,” says Walters. “They radiate freshness and smile after coming out newly washed. They are also very grateful. We have got to know quite a few regulars and this friendship is particularly rewarding.”

– Das