In the freezing cold roughly three years ago, Teresa Renkenberger and her family spotted a gentleman pushing a wheelchair down Lakeland Drive in Flowood. Compelled to help, they pulled over and waited for him to catch up to offer a warm change of clothes and snacks. Neither Benny nor Renkenberger could foresee what their newly kindled friendship would become: a life-changing organization.
One day, Renkenburger asked Benny, who didn’t have a home, how long it had been since he’d had a shower. His response was, “About a year, Miss Teresa.” Renkenburger left that day determined to solve a hygiene problem that plagues so many living without safe and consistent housing. “Walking up the steps to our house, the idea hit me of the need for A MOBILE SHOWER unit,” she proclaimed. “So the process started right away.”
With lots of prayer and the right people crossing Renkenberger’s path, the first Shower Power Mobile Shower Unit came to life. A fully renovated food truck, with two separate shower stalls, including a privacy door, hot and cold water, body soap, shampoo, a sink, and a mirror, completed with a new paint job of blue bubbles, was ready for Benny and other Jacksonians. And plenty of people are looking for a shower and a sense of community. Pre-COVID and inflation, the Galloway United Methodist Church’s Grace Place estimated the sheltered homeless population to be between 800 and 900. Today, it is even higher.
Long time friend of Rekenburger’s, Mary Ann Kirby, was one of the first to volunteer and immediately understood the mission and came on board as the director of operations. Together they have created a safe place for the area’s homeless and marginally sheltered to go and take a shower, be fed, clothed, and be loved. And, every Friday since late November of 2019, Shower Power has offered a free shower to anyone who needs it in downtown Jackson.
The primary mission hasn’t skipped a beat since conception, but the services have grown beyond a simple shower. They now have a permeant building for a food pantry, clothing closet, and other assistance.
In October 2020, Project Hope was born as an extension of Shower Power. Project Hope serves to identify which of the unsheltered Shower Power visitors would be good candidates for low-income housing—and then helps them get there. They currently have 11 people in the program. For $9,000 per year, provided by corporate and individual sponsorships, housing and groceries are secured. Actual life change comes with not having to sleep on the street.
“They are honestly just like us, but they got down on their luck,” said Renkenberger. “Most don’t wake up and say they want to be homeless. It makes you think it could be you or me but, by the grace of God, it is not.”
Shower Power and Project Hope have made a conscious decision to forgo government funding, allowing them the freedom and flexibility to help without red tape or delays. And they continue to do that through the “village” of supporters who sign up to physically show up every Friday to feed, fellowship, and fill in the gaps through clothing, food, resources, and connection.
Shower Power is more than a shower. The village brings Mississippi hospitality to the streets of Jackson by delivering mobile hygiene services and more to people experiencing homelessness. It’s about taking time to show people that someone cares and restoring dignity by providing resources needed for self-care.
No person, program, or organization can solve the complex problem of homelessness, but everyone, including you and me, can remind them that they are worthy of love. If you want to learn more about Shower Power MS, visit their website or Facebook page.