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Expansion of free shower program for Holland homeless community in the works

Around 30 people attend "Refresh" each week.

HOLLAND, Mich. — A program offering weekly showers and hot meals to the Holland homeless community has gained so much popularity, it will soon expand to a second day, officials said.

Community Action House partnered with First United Methodist Church in February to create "Refresh: Hygiene and Hope," offered each Tuesday between 9 a.m. and noon at the church's 10th Street location.

People have wanted a program like this for a long time, said Angela Maxwell, homeless outreach coordinator for Community Action House. 

"Giving people a venue to maintain their hygiene is the primary goal of this because that really does impact everyone," Maxwell said. "That's the health and well being of our community."

In addition to showers and hot meals, people utilizing Refresh can get free haircuts and sign up for mail service. There are no qualifications required for using these amenities, Maxwell said. 

"We do not ask questions...but that's part of that sense of also being a community," she said. "There's nothing to make you afraid of coming here. You don't have to prove yourself in any kind of way."

Refresh is a way for the First United Church to embrace all of its neighbors, even those most vulnerable, said LuAnne Stanley Hook, director of community involvement. 

"Our offer of radically inclusive love and acceptance to all is based on our faith, but faith is not required for participation at Refresh," Stanley Hook said. "We’ve found, however, that this kind of community is very contagious, and the joy offered to others becomes joy received as well."

At first, only a few people came to use the facilities. Now around 30 people attend each week.  

"[I get] people off the street saying, 'Man this place, every Tuesday you come take a shower, get lunch,' I'm helping them out," said Ron Ooms, who showers at the church every week. 

First United, which has four showers, runs out of hot water due to the program's growing popularity. The organizers are looking for solutions and plan to expand to a second day soon. 

"Hopefully this will also expand to be able to provide people storage space," Maxwell said. "We'd also like to see laundry added. We'll roll those out as soon as we can."

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