CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Soap, deodorant and shampoo – tons of it – are being sought by four local charities to help the community’s growing homeless population feel minty fresh and zestfully clean.

The goal is to have enough supplies on hand to last through the fall, when shelter populations grow at night due to inclement weather.

Toiletries collected will be distributed in a partnership between the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, Crisis Assistance Ministry, A Child’s Place and the Union County Community Shelter’s Community Closet.

The Men’s Shelter alone uses 300 to 400 “hotel-sized” bars of soap a day, says Carson Dean, its executive director. It’s not uncommon for showers there to run daily from 4 p.m. to midnight, he says, and that’s even after limiting men to 5 minutes under the water.

“We encourage them to take a shower, not only for cleanliness, but from a health standpoint,” Dean says. “You also don’t want a shelter full of people who haven’t had a chance to use a bar of soap in hot weather.”

Supplies run so tight some days that the shelter’s staff is forced to take bigger bars and cut them up.

Bobby Helms of the shelter’s staff says he’s become an expert at it and can turn a family-size bar of Irish Spring into as many as 10 mini-bars.

He understands why the men want showers, having once lived in his car for three months.

“It makes them feel like a normal person again,” he says. “You get a shower, and it can wash away some of the bad things that happened to you that day. They actually seem happier, if only for a few minutes.”

Mark Price, The Charlotte Observer

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