Hope thru Soap offers a chance for strangers to become family

Hope thru Soap offers mobile showers and clothing for men, women and children experiencing homelessness. Held prior to covid, a block party in Atlanta where they also provided haircuts, a hot lunch and Outreach Services is shown.
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Hope thru Soap offers mobile showers and clothing for men, women and children experiencing homelessness. Held prior to covid, a block party in Atlanta where they also provided haircuts, a hot lunch and Outreach Services is shown.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Q: Recently I passed a “Hope thru Soap” trailer and would like to know what this organization is about. Can you tell me?

A: Founded in 2016 by Jason Winter, Hope thru Soap began by providing free hot showers to the less fortunate every Saturday in Atlanta. They return to the same locations throughout the city to connect them with other resources.

Taking sandwiches and clothing to Little Five Points, Winter and some of his friends sought out people experiencing homelessness. Conversations over a few months rolled into trust and shared stories.

“Jason asked them, ‘What is your biggest need’?”, said Executive Director Megan Roberts VandeBogert. “Everyone consistently said the same thing. It was access to a shower. You can find a bathroom, but it’s not easy to find a shower.”

The purchase of a two-stall shower trailer began the solution to the consensus.

An “as long as you want” private hot shower provided along with soap, shampoo, a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant and a razor. Clean clothing, haircuts and shaves offered.

Loaded with water, grills, food, music and games, the founder turned the shower Saturdays into a semblance of a block party.

“When you put the smell of a cookout in the air and music it brings people to a happy place. So to be able to eat a hot dog or hamburger with sides, take a shower, get clean clothes, a haircut and just hang out really transforms people,” she said.

When Covid hit, Hope thru Soap focused on food and hygiene partnering with other organizations, such as Safe House, the “Warming Center” for the City of Atlanta, Home First and Fulton County COC. Their services also extended to food insecure elderly and families living in cars.

“We put together what we call ‘Hope’ bags and drove around to all the areas we knew there were encampment sites to hand out the bags. Quick interactions with people we knew that they would have enough food to last until we returned the following week,” VandeBogert said.

All services are currently provided through their mobile outreach: showers, haircuts, shaves, clothing and food.

With things slowly opening up, HTS will host their first block party since Covid (serving up to 50 people) on April 3.

“You know when you’re passing somebody on the side of the road that is holding a sign, instead of quickly judging them and say ‘Why would I stop and see what he or she needs. They’re wearing new shoes’. Well, they might have gotten new shoes from us or have on clean clothes because they just saw us,” the executive director said. “Instead stop and ask, ‘How can I help you? Are you hungry? What’s your name? ... Seeing them as people because I kind of think we’ve lost sight of that as a society.”

We believe in treating everyone with respect and are a “no judgment” zone meeting people where they are in life, said the executive director.

For more information, visit http://hopethrusoap.org/ or call 770-365-2612.

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