The Macomb County grassroots nonprofit organization WAVE (Welcoming All Valuing Everyone) Project is dedicated to serving and helping their community by providing hygiene services and clothing to guests in metro Detroit in need — especially individuals experiencing homelessness who do not have access to a clean, useable, and functioning bathroom or shower.
Their 23-foot custom-made mobile shower trailer can provide over 30 showers per day to individuals in need with three climate-controlled bathroom stalls equipped with a stand-up shower, sink, and toilet.
The trailer is outfitted with an arctic package, which allows it to withstand the extremely cold winter temperatures and enables the service to be provided all year. A high-top mobile clothing closet known as the “essentials van” follows the trailer with socks, underwear, t-shirts, hoodies, sweats, jeans, hygiene items, backpacks, coats, gloves, mittens, hats, and scarfs for guests that need them.
Executive Director Todd Gordon cofounded WAVE Project in 2018 with his wife and high school sweetheart, Laura, along with four of their friends from Kensington Church in Clinton Township.
He balances his nonprofit responsibilities with raising his two daughters in addition to a full-time career as a music and choir teacher at Scripps Middle School in Lake Orion.
Gordon says that he and the other cofounders were feeling that God wanted them to get outside the walls of the church and try to make a difference, specifically for marginalized members of the community.
They started doing monthly outreach barbecues in Mount Clemens where they provided food and hygiene kits to those in need, and built relationships. Through these relationships, Gordon learned that the lack of access to hygiene services was a major issue for those experiencing homelessness.
“There is also a lack of access to public restrooms in the metro Detroit area,” says Gordon. “In Detroit, there are around seven public restrooms per 100,000 residents.”
Gordon was inspired by LavaMaex, a group in San Francisco providing mobile services and showers. He started dreaming about how this could help people living in metro Detroit.
“The impact of mobile services and showers around the United States is tremendous,” says Gordon. “They help all kinds of people.”
Today, specially trained part-time employees provide the shower service and essentials van on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. On Saturdays, and sometimes on other prescheduled weekdays or Sundays, a group of generous volunteers offer these services and additional support. On any given week, there could be 15-30 community members involved — and the community is taking notice.
Shelters, churches, and other organizations in metro Detroit have reached out to Gordon to have these services offered at their locations; generous businesses have made donations; local photographers and videographers have jumped in to help Gordon with promotion; talented and caring professionals and stay-at-home parents have joined the team to take on the part of shopping for clothing at the Salvation Army; and families throughout metro Detroit have reached out to him to volunteer, donate funds, and support him in his mission of sharing love by providing mobile showers to those in need.
In addition, the Wahl family connected with the WAVE Project and opened their doors by providing them with a free, 24-hour access indoor storage space at their tents and event structures facility. The WAVE Project keeps their truck and trailer in their warehouse in order to avoid winterization. This space has become their base of operations.
WAVE Project is all about relationships, but Gordon says that those facing homelessness are often on guard, and it does take time for people in a community to get comfortable with the idea of mobile showers.
At first, guests will come by to check out the essentials van and get some clothing, but not shower. They learn a little bit more about their services, and then the next week, they are getting more clothes and using one of the showers. After spending some time with the team, they feel more comfortable — and Gordon says the guests love the people serving on the WAVE Project’s team.
“We are only able to do what we do because of our volunteers,” he explains. “We welcome all kinds of volunteers — high school seniors, church members, people of all backgrounds and ethnicities.”
WAVE Project establishes consistent partnerships with other organizations that already have roots in the community. Currently, they honor and support 7-10 consistent partnerships per week.
One of these partners, the Team Wellness Center in Detroit, which provides a clinic for mental health and substance abuse support, provides them with a place to park and a hookup for water. Plus, they spread the word and educate people about the WAVE Project.
Gordon says that in 2022, WAVE Project provided over 2,200 showers and distributed over 3,000 clothing items to individuals in need.
For more information on WAVE Project and how to help, go to waveproject.org.