Amber, 29, of Chula Vista was grateful for a shower provided by a new South Bay service, Project Refresh.
Amber, 29, of Chula Vista was grateful for a shower provided by a new South Bay service, Project Refresh. Photo by Chris Stone

There may not have been cucumber water or massage tables. But “Spa Day for the Unsheltered” left dozens of people pleased Saturday in South Bay after a shower, haircut, clothes and bags of food and toiletries.

“I really needed a shower,” said Cesar Valdez, 50. “So thank you very much, everybody. All of these guys are beautiful.”

“I feel brand new,” he said as he waved goodbye and carried bags filled with food and toiletries.

Saturday was the rebirth of Project Refresh in Chula Vista. The plan is to begin offering showers to unsheltered people several times a week beginning around June 1 at the Community Through Hope center at 465 C St., according to Sebastian Martinez, development director for the group.

Last March, Community Through Hope members planned to start the shower program for South Bay homeless people, he said.

By no sooner did they buy the shower with two stalls with the assistance of Community Congregational Development Corp. than the pandemic shut off the valves March 16, Martinez said.

So the group shifted to emergency nutrition for people experiencing homelessness, he said.

The organization’s Day of Hope, which they have offered for five years, evolved into Project Refresh.

Saturday, the three-hour event offered COVID vaccines, haircuts, showers, food, clothing and ID vouchers and bus passes.

However, firefighters said only three homeless people consented to a jab. But volunteers got Pfizer vaccines.

Ricardo Diznado, 66, who camps near Harborside Park, said he came in for the haircut and got in on the food and clothing as well.

“It made me feel like someone,” Diznado said after getting a crew cut and beard trim.

“Sometimes you feel like everybody hates homeless people,” he said. “Then when you get this service, it feels like somebody cares, you know.”

Martinez said the day was to zero in on health including showers. Over the past year, no mobile showers were dedicated to the South Bay.

A 29-year-old homeless woman named Amber said: “I feel refreshed… They give you everything you need.”

She plans to return when the service is offered.

About 65 people attended the event with 30-35 people soaping up in the 20-minute showers, which Martinez called “super popular.”

“Having these showers available multiple times a week is going to make a huge difference for this community,” he said. “People have been describing it as almost like Spa Day for the Unsheltered — for the (inner body) as well. We are igniting hope.”

The hope is once people come in for emergency services including showers, they will be comfortable and look at other options such as permanent housing, he said.

“Really, the idea behind Project Refresh is accessibility particularly during the pandemic,” he said. “Accessibility of resources for the unsheltered went from already difficult to close to zero.”

People where shuttled in Saturday from an area near Plaza Bonita, which he calls “the jungle.”

“Some of these folks probably haven’t had access to a shower in months or the whole year, depending on how isolated they are,” Martinez said.

Prior to the pandemic, some homeless people bought enough gym memberships to take showers there. But the pandemic closed the gyms.

Over the last year, the organization has offered case management for housing and rehabilitation.

Community Through Hope’s website says it has served 345,161 people, including 69,032 families, and distributed more than 5 million pounds of food.

People who would like to volunteer or donate can visit www.communitythroughhope.org

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