Couple builds mobile shower to help homeless in St. Cloud

For many homeless people, having a hot shower can feel like luxury when you lack the basics like food and shelter. That's why a Sauk Rapids couple is hoping to make a splash with a mobile shower truck.

Nancy Dyson and Jason Jaques have made it their life's mission to help those less fortunate. Soon they'll be able to shower the homeless of St. Cloud with a service they desperately need.

In a mobile home park on the banks of the Mississippi River, a labor of love is almost ready to hit the road. "It’s a huge need," Jaques said. "I was actually homeless myself off and on for a three-year period. I know what the people on the streets are doing."

Jaques and Dyson came up with the idea for a mobile shower truck after running into a homeless friend of theirs in a Walmart parking lot about a year and half ago.

"I went to give her a hug and she backed away," recalls Dyson. "She was like ‘I can't give you a hug… I can't remember the last time I had a shower.’ She got embarrassed, got all teary eyed, and then asked 'do you guys know anywhere I could get a shower?'"

After learning there are few places for their friend to go, the couple bought a small passenger van themselves and are in the process of outfitting it with a shower stall and water lines. They plan to take it to homeless hot spots around St. Cloud to give people who live on the streets a chance to scrub their troubles away, at least for a while.

"We thought about what we wanted to call this and James Taylor has a song called 'Shower The People.' I Googled the lyrics and I was like this kind of fits," Dyson explains. "This is more about giving people a little slice of their dignity."

According to the Central Minnesota Housing Partnership, some 474 people are currently homeless in the St. Cloud area. A recent study by Wilder Research found the number of homeless in Central Minnesota went up 20 percent from the last count three years ago -- a bigger jump than the rest of the state.

"Some people lose jobs, lose housing,” explains Maj. Mike Parker of Salvation Army in St. Cloud. “In this community, affordable housing is limited. Vacancies are limited, just to find housing."

In the meantime, Jaques and Dyson hope their pet project helps the people in need get a clean slate. Jaques says, "I'm looking forward to helping them out. Doing what I can to help them."

There are a few finishing touches that need to be done on the mobile shower truck, but they hope to have it ready to make its debut on Tuesday.