PORTLAND, Ore. -- Annette Johnson is homeless, and she knows she needs a shower.
"Well, look at my hair,” she said. “People stare at you, people snicker, make comments.”
In addition to the hurt feelings, Johnson also says a lack of access to hygiene makes it harder for her to climb out of homelessness.
"I'm trying to get a job, I can't walk into a place to apply for a job with my hair looking like this,” she said.
Johnson spoke as she was sitting outside a mobile shower at the Clackamas Service Center near Johnson Creek. It’s one of the few places available for the homeless to take a shower.
The lack of access to hygiene for the homeless was highlighted by a recent study by Portland State Social Work instructor Lisa Hawash. Forty percent of those surveyed also reported health problems resulting from the difficulty in finding places to keep clean.
One of the most popular places in downtown Portland is Transition Projects on Northwest Broadway and Hoyt.
“It's a blessing to be able to offer this to the population on the streets; however, the need far exceeds what we are able to offer,” said Christopher Sage of Transition Projects.
On a typical day 160 people use the showers, and another 46 people get to do a load of laundry.
Homeless advocates like Karissa Moden of Sisters of the Road says momentum is building to come up with creative solutions to the problem.
Sage says it can’t happen soon enough.
"Hygiene is essential to health, and humanity," he said.
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