So, you find yourself broke, homeless, facing  life on the streets of Portland.  Besides finding food, clothes, bedding,  and a place to sleep, you need to locate a toilet available through the day,    and somewhere to wash your body, brush your teeth and launder your clothes.

The HYGIENE PROJECT, done in partnership with the PSU School of Social Work and the Sisters of the Road in Old Town/Chinatown, explored the need for showers, toilets and laundry facilities for those without permanent housing. Portland State University students discovered that Portland’s homeless population is suffering due to lack of access to proper hygiene facilities

Lisa Hawash, an assistant professor in the PSU School of Social Work, led the research and survey of 550 homeless people, over a 2-year period from 2014 and 2016. The graduate students found that 40% had experienced health problems due to lack of hygiene resources, including staph infections, scabies, lice, open sores, endocarditis and urinary tract

KOIN news reported that “surveyors learned that 40% of people use public restrooms at City Hall, libraries,  and the mall, 33% use the Portland Loo and 32% use shelter restrooms. The most common place people reported taking care of their hygiene needs was Transition Project or JOIN because those are a few of the places that provide showers, laundry and bathrooms. Other places mentioned in the survey were Red Door, Rose Haven, Sisters of the Road,  and Union Gospel Mission.


“After completing their survey of people at shelters and service organizations, Hawash’s students are calling for a community hygiene center that would be open every day, for at least 12 hours, with showers and supplies, bathrooms, laundry facilities and lockers. Hawash emphasized the importance of finding many ways to solve homelessness. There can be affordable housing bonds, the Right to Rest Act, shelters and hygiene centers but those things on their owe won’t solve the systemic problem. She said a hygiene center is one of the ways to address the issue.

The hygiene center would be

  • Open seven days per week, at least 12-14 hours per day;
  • Accessible showers and supplies
  • Accessible bathrooms
  • Washer/dryer laundry facilities
  • Storage/locker space.

“As a community social worker, I believe in the dignity and respect and human rights for all people and people’s self determination,” Hawash said. “At the end of the day, it’s about inherent worth.”


A typical Care Kit consists of a watertight gallon-size zipper lock plastic bag filled with items like:

  • Water bottle
  • Socks
  • Tuna and crackers
  • Granola Bar or cereal bar
  • Fruit snack or applesauce cup
  • Crackers with peanut butter or cheese
  • Gift certificate to fast food
  • Hand wipes
  • Pack of Kleenex
  • Maxi pads
  • Depends
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Nail clippers
  • Band Aids
  • Chapstick
  • Comb or small brush
  • Mints, cough drops or gum
  • Note of encouragement or uplifting Bible verse