PORTLAND, Ore. -- Directors, teachers and students in a small Southeast Portland preschool are taking aim at one very specific problem plaguing the city’s homeless population: a lack of available showers.
“A shower is a basic need that many of us take for granted,” said Angie Garcia in a press release.
Garcia is the owner of Escuela Viva and the founder of Delightfully Urban, a blog focused on housing, homelessness and other issues in the city of Portland.
She’s hoping, through her website and through the community at her school, to sell Delightfully Urban 2017 Calendars. Each one costs $14.95, and 80 percent of the proceeds, she says, will go to the Clackamas Service Center, with the goal of expanding their mobile shower service to serve the city of Portland.
She says she hopes to sell 1,000 calendars, which should raise about $10,000 for the Service Center.
“The mobile showers will allow our homeless population to improve their overall health and help clients feel refreshed and ready for the day. This holiday season, shower the homeless with love and help the less fortunate get a clean start,” Garcia said in the press release.
Garcia admits, homelessness and how many cope with life on the streets are topics she’s had to discuss with kids at her school, which sits at Southeast 11th Avenue and Pine Street, a consistent hotspot for homeless campers.
The issue came to dramatic head back in March, when police said one homeless man shot another, as he slept inside a tent just half a block from Escuela Viva.
45-year-old Muhammad Bilal Rahman was later arrested and indicted on charges of first-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon and felon in possession of a firearm.
The victim, 32-year-old Kevin Hays, was paralyzed for life.
He later described the shooting, saying “…I couldn’t feel my legs. And I just went from there to the street, just dragging myself to the street, just screaming for help, for someone to call 911 because it hit me and I couldn’t feel my legs. It’s like someone just walked up and poked you with a tack, and your legs just went limp."
The shooting happened overnight, and no one else was injured.
School was shut down the next day, but the effects, staff said, lasted much longer.
Students at Escuela Viva are, now more than ever, taught to use the “star pose” to call an adult’s attention to trash or suspicious items they find on or near their school’s playground.
Those items, said staff, often included things like dirty needles, human waste and used condoms.
At the time, Garcia urged the Mayor’s office to establish buffer zones around schools in Portland, to keep homeless campers 100-200 feet back.
A spokesperson for Mayor Charlie Hales’ office said cities in Oregon are not able to take such action. Only the state can establish such zones around schools.