Donna Asif has seen the wonders of a nice hot shower.
When she began helping out homeless people in 2007, she befriended a homeless man named Larry who had been banned from Porchlight's emergency shelter at Grace Episcopal Church because he was infested with lice and scabies.
With nowhere else to go, he had no way of getting clean enough to be allowed back in. Asif began looking around for a place for Larry to shower. After many rejections, she finally got him into the showers at First United Methodist Church.
"When Larry took his showers in October 2008, after November he was never homeless again," says Asif.
The situation made Asif realize how difficult finding a place to bathe is for the homeless. She began a program called "Shower Power" at First United. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the church let homeless people into two of its shower facilities, and Asif provided the towels, shampoo and other toiletries.
But First United ended the program in late September. In an email to service providers and agencies, the church said the shower program proved problematic because it operated within the same area as the meal programs and food pantry.
A day resource center for the homeless -- which Dane County has been slowly working toward -- would address the need by providing showers on a daily basis.
Until then, four council members are proposing to add $40,000 to Mayor Soglin's budget to fund services like showers and lockers. The Board of Estimates tabled this idea at its Monday meeting to get more details about where and how these services could be provided, says Jim O'Keefe, director of the Community Development division.
Ald. Larry Palm, who supports the idea, says there's a debate on the council about who should fund these services -- the city or the county.
"I'm trying to figure out ways to go beyond the blame game," Palm says. "Unfortunately no one has excessive money, so it always becomes a question of what else aren't you going to provide."