Henry Penner, members of the Mennonite Central Committee and Mayor Henry Braun stand in front of the mobile shower trailer on its first day in operation on May 1, 2019. King Road Mennonite Brethren Church photo.

VIDEO: Canada’s only mobile shower trailer for homeless run by Abbotsford Mennonites

Refresh Mobile Showers started operations on May 1, provided over 550 showers

Henry Penner inside the one of the showers of his mobile trailer. Patrick Penner photo.

Henry Penner used to think homelessness issues could be placed at the feet of those living on the street. But his views have shifted significantly over the years and now he volunteers his time to get those feet clean.

Penner, and the King Road Mennonite Brethren Church, have been operating Canada’s only mobile shower trailer for people who are homeless since May 1. Refresh Mobile Showers runs services at two locations in Abbotsford and has provided more than 550 showers as of Dec. 12.

The idea came to Penner after watching a video of a man in Missouri who was offering a similar service. The video sparked something in him and caused him to spend several “sleepless nights wrestling with the idea.”

“To tell you the truth, I fought it in my mind … before the Lord told me that this is what I needed to do. First I thought, ‘Great idea, but let somebody else do it. Kudos to them,’” he said.

He said he decided to pursue the project after receiving encouragement from his friends, church, Abbotsford’s mayor and the Homeless Action Advisory Committee.

“Everyone said, ‘Don’t give up. Go for it!’ And that kept me going.”

Penner was recognized for his efforts by Mayor Henry Braun at the fifth annual Mayor’s Breakfast on May 22.

“[He] saw the homeless in our community and wanted to show love and respect for them by helping out in some practical way,” Braun said. “Henry’s perseverance, attention to detail, willingness to share his passion and [to] collaborate paid off.”

Penner and his church started fundraising in the spring of 2017 and were able to raise $35,000 in five months – enough to buy the trailer and start operations.

The Refresh Mobile Showers trailer outside of the Mennonite Central Committee building on Dec. 13. Patrick Penner photo.

The trailer itself has two showers, a propane-heated 225-gallon freshwater tank and 350-gallon gray water tank, and it’s capable of being completely self-sufficient.

Similar trailers exist on construction sites and movie sets, but none in Canada exist as a service exclusively for people who are homeless.

“I’ve done a lot of research and I have not found a single one,” Penner said. “There’s someone in Ontario that is trying to get something set up but haven’t done so yet.”

Only four people arrived on Refresh Mobile Showers’ first day in operation in May, but now they average over a dozen each time they set up.

The trailer sets up at 5 p.m. at Bakerview Church on Wednesdays, the Mennonite Central Committee at 4 p.m. on Thursdays, and every Monday at Gateway Community Church at 7:30 p.m. once their extreme-weather shelter opens in winter.

Penner said he initially had a lot of requests to go to Langley, Mission and Chilliwack but couldn’t accommodate those requests as Refresh Mobile Showers is operated entirely by volunteers.

“I’ve turned them down at this point. I’m willing to work with somebody who’s built their own initiative, but to spread ourselves thin is not apart of our game plan right now.”

While the trailer has been paid for, Refresh Mobile Showers still needs donations to maintain its operations and is always looking for new partners: kingroad.ca/refresh-mobile-showers.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Google maps screenshot.
Fraser Health declares COVID-19 outbreak at Mission retirement home over

Staff member at Chartwell Carrington House Retirement Residence tested positive on Oct. 13

The currently-vacant, 24-acre lot on the west side of Silver Creek. The District is hoping to turn this land into an industrial business park. Google Maps screenshot.
Industrial business park being planned for lands around Mission’s Silver Creek

Re-zoning applications for two properties to go forward to public hearing on Nov. 2

File Photo
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Agassiz Seniors Community

First declared outbreak in Agassiz-Harrison since pandemic began

Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness watches the results on election night. The ex-Liberal’s tumultuous campaign and the narrow margin for victory ahead of the mail-in ballot count leaves the future of the riding’s seat in limbo for at least the next week. (Facebook/Laurie Throness)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Future for incumbent Throness uncertain as riding awaits results

Chilliwack-Kent candidate hopeful, resigned waiting on final count

The family and friends of Abbotsford resident Kaitlyn Cassels have launched a GoFundMe for her after she suffered serious injuries following a bad fall on Thursday night. (Submitted)
GoFundMe created for Abbotsford woman after horrible fall

19-year-old Kaitlyn Cassels suffers many injuries after falling 27 feet off Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. government photo)
Unnamed school in Fraser Health region closed due to COVID-19

Closure announced by Dr. Bonnie Henry during daily briefing

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

A heavy police presence was spotted in Lumby, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Facebook)
Police situation leads to ‘hold and secure’ at North Okanagan school

Police call for social media blackout in ongoing incident

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak forces closure of Kelowna school

The outbreak is the first within B.C.’s school system since classes resumed back in September

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

Most Read