Salvation Army Hamilton Service Center boosts dignity in Montana by adding showers
The Salvation Army Hamilton Service Center in Montana expanded its services to provide showers and laundry facilities, addressing a pressing need in the community and restoring dignity.
When a shower facility in Hamilton, Montana, closed its doors, it left individuals experiencing homelessness with no accessible public-use shower options. The sudden closure not only exacerbated the daily challenges they faced, but also exposed the need for a new, sustainable solution to address basic hygiene needs.
In response to the ongoing need, The Salvation Army Hamilton Service Center expanded its facility to offer shower and laundry services—now the county’s only operation of its kind, according to Hamilton Service Center Director Fidelis Temukum.
“We can now deliver a positive response to those who are asking about and looking for a shower,” said Temukum. “This is a huge blessing to the community and to us.”
Located 47 miles from Missoula in Ravalli County, the Hamilton Service Center delivers Salvation Army resources to less-populated areas of Montana.
In 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a poverty rate of 9.5 percent in Ravalli County among its population of 47,298. Temukum said witnessing the harsh realities of poverty-stricken families was a major motivation in adding showers.
“It’s sad to know that some families are sleeping in their vehicles with their children,” said Temukum. “Many of them go to school and to work but they live in their car and don’t have a place to shower, so we thought it would be helpful to add showers.”
Across The Salvation Army’s Northwestern Division, 156 service centers are in place to ensure access to assistance in communities without a larger Salvation Army facility nearby.
“Salvation Army Service Centers and units ensure that people don’t have to drive 45 minutes to a corps to get help,” said Northwest Service Extension and Emergency/Disaster Services Director Shaun Jones. “It minimizes many of the barriers that come with distance.”
Service Centers address community needs through the support of dedicated directors, staff members and volunteers. Visitors can access assistance services, including food distributions, prescription support, diaper donations, seasonal programs, referrals, spiritual guidance and emergency financial aid.
Jones said public-use showers have been implemented across other Salvation Army facilities such as the Missoula Corps, the Centralia (Washington) Corps and the Lewiston (Idaho) Corps.
“We’ve seen it done before,” he said. “Service Center Directors are really good at identifying niches and then navigating through ways of meeting unique needs.”
When the space next to the Hamilton Service Center became vacant, Temukum met with the building landlord to devise a plan to integrate the available space into their facility while adding a pair of showers.
“With the showers, we now have peace knowing that we can provide this service and help restore dignity in many lives.” – Fidelis Temukum Hamilton Service Center Director
The expansion project involved removing a wall and connecting the adjacent space, resulting in a welcoming, open area that still preserved privacy for individuals or families with children. Additionally, the team added shelving units for the convenient storage of shower supplies.
A donation of $1,000 from the American Legion Post 47 played a role in launching the project and ensuring that essentials like towels, shampoo, and toothpaste were available.
According to Temukum, who has been in his role for five years, every need warrants a solution that sets others up for success. He said on average, they assist approximately 25 individuals a week through phone calls and referrals. Some have already used the showers, and he anticipates more will come as the word spreads.
“It’s a terrible feeling going home and thinking that someone came into the office and I was unable to help them,” said Teumkum, of the time before the showers were available. “With the showers, we now have peace knowing that we can provide this service and help restore dignity in many lives.”
In addition to the physical aspects of proper hygiene, showers and cleanliness can contribute to an individual’s success by enhancing self-esteem, mental health and establishing a foundation of well-being, according to the World Health Organization.
Jones said, in turn, a form of dignity restoration can empower individuals to pursue opportunities and explore other resources that could benefit their situation.
“With kids going back and forth from school and parents heading to work, it’s good all around to have this service,” said Jones. “Being clean can help someone receive a work promotion—which can mean more money they could put toward a car or an apartment.”
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