Asylum-seeking migrants often make it to San Antonio without having the opportunity to bathe for weeks beforehand. Similarly, there are residents of San Antonio who don't have access to clean water.
“All of us have the right to be clean and feel clean,” said J. Antonio Fernandez, the President and CEO of Catholic Charities in San Antonio.
According to Fernandez, that human right is one of the reasons his organization, along with the Archdiocese of San Antonio and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, have come together to buy and outfit a mobile shower unit. It’s a truck with two bathrooms on board that include showers, toilets, sinks and one laundry room with a full washer and dryer.
Fernandez said the idea gained traction over the last year as he noticed Catholic Charities’ mobile food pantry was not meeting all the needs of the people they were trying to serve.
“We have seen individuals and families in crisis,” Ferndandez said. “Without food. Without clothing. We also started seeing families who didn’t have a shower for weeks. Families who didn’t have clean clothes. That’s when this project was born.”
The plan is to take the unit to places in San Antonio where those without homes congregate so they can have a shower, shave and wash their clothes. But Fernandez says they hope to reach beyond the city limits and help migrants who reach the border in need.
"If we have a need to take this to McAllen or Del Rio or Uvalde, we will take it,” Fernadez said. “Just to give an opportunity to immigrants who may be walking for weeks and they don't have an opportunity to take a shower, they can now take a shower."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints financed the unit, which cost around $150,000.
Church Elder Carlos Villarreal said they were driven to join this partnership because his church believes they are obligated to do for others what they cannot do for themselves. Villarreal shared a quote he attributed to George Washington Carver, saying, “Every human being owes it to himself to leave the soil richer than he found it.”
Archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Antonio Gustavo García-Siller prayed over and blessed the mobile unit, and said, “(With) the commissioning of this shower truck we are putting together what we’re taught and what we preach; to respect the dignity of a human person regardless of their station in life.”