Mobile hygiene unit for homeless 'CleanStart' launches in East Bay

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- As the Bay Area struggles to find ways to address the homeless an East Bay city is launching a new service Wednesday to help give the homeless a place to get clean.

According to the City of Fremont, there has been a 27 percent increase in the number of homeless people in their city since 2017.

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All around Fremont, the growing number of homeless people is on display in the growing number of tents and people roaming the streets.

City officials say one of the major obstacles for those who are homeless is keeping their bodies and clothes clean.

On Tuesday, Fremont and the City of Newark will officially launch their CleanStart Mobile Hygiene Program, in conjunction with Alameda County and several community partners. Inside the 50-foot long trailer are two full bathrooms with showers. Participants will be given 15 minutes to use the facilities. The unit is also equipped with three washing machines and dryers.

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"The goals are really to provide dignity to and a more healthy environment for our homeless residence," says Suzanne Shenfil, the Director of Human Services for the City of Fremont. "A lot of our homeless work, and having access to a shower, to be able to be clean and have clean clothes... is really important."

Craig Johnson has live in Fremont since 1968, but has been homeless for the past few years. He says he is excited about the mobile unit, adding that most people may not understand the challenges homeless people face in trying to keep their bodies and clothing clean.

"It's pretty hard. I've got a lot of friends because I have lived here so long, but especially for the younger people, they don't have nowhere to go," says Johnson.

The mobile unit cost $125,000, and was funded by a grant from Alameda County, money that was earmarked specifically for programs aimed at the county's homeless population. Shenfil says it will cost $100,000 to operate the unit per year.

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The CleanStart unit will park in pre-designated locations in both cities and be held in conjunction with other service programs such places where food and clothing are distributed, making it easier for those who need to use the unit.

Shenfil says, once the program it fully up and running, the unit will provide services twice a day, Monday through Friday.

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