Lance Olinski loves attending The Parks Church in McKinney. His life has been changed by the mission-minded approach the congregation takes in their everyday lives, especially the impactful ways they engage with their local community. This is what sparked Lance’s desire to take a big step into community development work.
Lance’s passion for his church, coupled with involvement with the Collin County Homeless Coalition, shaped his trajectory into nonprofit work. “Initially I was just trying to help folks in Collin County,” Lance said. “I realized that we don’t have any emergency shelters for the homeless here, meaning that most people on the street live in tents or cars, if they’re lucky, and they don’t have access to showers.”
Upon realizing his passion for the homeless community in Collin County, Lance honed in on the issue of hygiene after an encounter at a local restaurant.
“I was in the restroom and I witnessed a homeless guy washing himself out of the sink,” Lance said. “I looked at him and could tell how desperate he was to get clean. I made eye contact with him, and I thought to myself, here we are in McKinney, named one of the best places in the country to live, and this man doesn’t have a place to shower, which is something everyone deserves. I walked out thinking, I know we can do better.”
Lance started researching organizations around the country that provide showers to those in need and found Lava Mae, an organization based in California that was providing mobile hygiene services. “That whole concept gripped me, and I said this is how we need to do it, so essentially I just brought the model back to North Texas,” Lance told us.
After traveling to California to meet the Lava Mae team and receive training on the mobile hygiene unit management process, Lance returned home and purchased his first shower trailer. He officially launched Streetside Showers in June 2017 and has risen to the challenge of meeting demands, like traveling to serve the people of Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Streetside Showers is also forming local partnerships with organizations and municipalities like the City of Dallas, where Lance will provide shower stops at the Dallas Public Library later this year.
Every Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, you can find Lance hosting shower stops in McKinney and Plano. Each person who comes for a shower is served on a first come, first served basis. They sign a waiver before receiving a fresh towel, new washcloth, a pair of underwear, and two pairs of socks. They are treated to a 15-minute shower.
“Ultimately what we’re trying to do is restore dignity and hope,” Lance said. “And we focus on consistency. We’re very strategic about maintaining our weekly locations so we can establish consistency with our users.”
On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, Lance spends his time meeting with potential partners, raising money, and speaking with organizations. He recently raised the funds to purchase a second mobile unit, and he’s looking to build in operational expenses, maybe by adding part-time staff.
“Our goal is to have the shower stops running five or six days per week,” Lance told us.
If you’re interested in getting involved with Streetside Showers, there are so many ways to plug in. You can donate supplies for hygiene kits, subscribe to the organization’s email list, serve as a volunteer at shower stops, or donate financially. Learn more on the Streetside Showers website.
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Story by Rachel Brown. Photos by Hunter Lacey.