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Peter Brooks had been looking for two years for a place to put a state-of-the-art mobile shower unit to work. Ricka Davis-Sheard said the nonprofit she co-founded in 2019 was, meanwhile, looking to help Antioch’s growing population of unhoused people.
The Oasis Project figures to meet both of those needs as the showers, clean clothes and other assistance serves East Contra Costa’s growing homeless population.
“Ricka was the light at the end of the tunnel of my long search,” said Brooks, a volunteer with Pleasant Hill-based White Pony Express, which since 2013 has operated food programs for Contra Costa’s needy. That group is broadening its outreach.
“(Davis-Sheard) saw the mobile shower as a perfect fit for the work SHARE Community wanted to do in East County,” Brooks said. “What she had in mind was exactly what White Pony had in mind.”
That two-unit mobile shower, which for various mostly logistical reasons had never been operated until now, has found a home at the Oasis Project, which from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. will offer showers, clean clothes and a snack for homeless people.
Initially, the Oasis Project will be stationed at the Community Outreach Center on East 18th Street in Antioch, operated by Golden Hills Community Church.
The mobile shower, which is Americans with Disabilities Act certified, is the only such unit for use by the homeless in East Contra Costa County. It will be free for the public to use with no questions asked.
Clothing and connections
The Oasis also features a “clothing and care closet” operated by White Pony Express to provide clothes free of charge; connections to referral services provided by Contra Costa Health Services’ Coordinated Outreach Referral and Engagement team (CORE) stationed in East County; and free haircuts offered by licensed hair stylists on-site.
Homelessness has been a growing problem in eastern Contra Costa. The annual “point-in-time” count of homeless in Contra Costa County turned up more than 500 people living unsheltered in the eastern portion of the county.
“It’s a growing problem, and the City of Antioch is working to take it on,” Antioch City Councilwoman Joy Motts said during a short ceremony Tuesday marking the opening of the Oasis Project.
Also looking to get involved in that effort was SHARE Community, the Antioch-based nonprofit co-founded by Davis-Sheard and Vincent Vidriales in 2019.
Davis-Sheard told a small crowd Tuesday that the 15-minute showers are for anyone who asks, though people may have to schedule it for later, depending on demand.
And while being clean leads to its own opportunities for the homeless, Davis-Sheard said, it’s about more than that.
“We don’t want to just offer a shower; we want to offer revitalization,” she said.
Another part of it, she said, is some needed privacy, if only for a few minutes. Even the feeling of locking oneself in the shower for 15 minutes, she said, can bring a feeling of safety, as well.
A little off the top
While no one was using the showers during most of Tuesday’s kickoff event, the barber’s chairs were well used. John Simon was getting a haircut and beard trim from Octavio Perez of Brentwood, also known as the “Bald Barber.”
“He’s my own personal barber now,” Simon said as Perez took the clippers to Simon’s long white beard.
Eve Birge, executive director of White Pony Express, said food at Oasis will be limited to snacks at first, but may grow into something more, like the Blessings Project, a food delivery program in partnership with Concord-based nonprofit Monument Impact providing food for a largely Latinx client base there. If and when that happened, Birge said, the food would be provided by White Pony, and distributed by Bay Point’s Team Jesus nonprofit.
The Oasis Project is the biggest in SHARE Community’s short history.
“This definitely kicks us into a higher gear, and to a new level of service, especially when it comes to cooperation with other nonprofits.
“For me,” Davis-Sheard, “it’s a dream come true.”