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ATLANTA, Ga. — Jason Winter isn’t trying to solve homelessness. He’s just trying to make someone’s day better than their last.
It starts with a fresh set of clothes and some soap and water.
Every Friday, Winter loads up his rainbow-tinted, compressed natural gas bus with donated clothing and supplies. And every Saturday, he drives it an hour from Buford, Ga. to downtown Atlanta to fill up the shower trailer’s 125-gallon water tank. A full tank can provide twenty-seven people with showers.
As soon as Winter pulls up into the abandoned parking lot, beeping his horn, people wave and come over. For the next few hours, the sound of music and smell of hot dogs fill the air. People who haven’t showered in weeks, or even months, line up for their turn. While they wait, they can pick out a fresh set of clothes, get a haircut, dance to the music and grab a bite to eat.
“You wouldn’t want to shower and put on your same dirty clothes. What else would go with a shower? A haircut. And a shave. Try to clean them up, try to make them feel good about their day, so that’s kind of what we do,” explains Winter.
Winter is dedicated to helping his community. Born and raised in Atlanta, he quickly realized how many people were in need.
“As a kid, we had a lot of stuff, we were very fortunate. When I got older, I realized that having all these things – a house, a bed, a job, a car – it’s all great, but for me, giving back… that’s my fancy car,” says Winter.
In the winter of 2016, Winter, along with a group of friends, collected donations and handed them out to people in need every Saturday. Hats, scarves, and blankets were passed out to keep them warm. As the months went by and the city thawed, Winter strived to continue helping his community.
“We started getting to know these folks. I asked the guys and the ladies, ‘If you could have anything, what would you want right now?’ and they all said a shower. So I decided to bring the shower to them,” recalls Winter.
Winter bought a shower trailer and hitched it to the back of his SUV. In the beginning, it was just Winter and his friends Mike Stone and Stephanie Dooley. Now, Hope thru Soap is an operation that serves up to 300 people with the help of 6 to 30 volunteers. The monthly cost is about $1100 per month, and it’s entirely donation-based.
In the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017, Hope thru Soap traveled to Naples, FL and gave free showers to 309 people in three days. Winter plans to continue to help out in the face of natural disaster. Hope thru Soap has assembled a crew to head to the East Coast in preparation of Hurricane Florence.