Teresa Renkenberger only thought she was helping a homeless friend when she created Shower Power. Today the mobile unit helps several people in Jackson’s homeless community, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
After Renkenberger developed a friendship with Bennie, a homeless man she met on Lakeland Drive, she discovered during their year-long friendship Bennie had not taken a shower that year. “We started only thinking that we were going to shower Bennie, but it turned into showering about 65 people, so it has really grown,” said Renkenberger. “The shower is our vessel to reach these people.”
Every Friday from 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m., Renkenberger and her son, Jarred Couch, use a food truck that has been converted to a mobile shower to help one of the most vulnerable communities in Jackson. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, they will also be operating on Tuesdays. After reaching out to Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba, Renkenberger confirmed that her business could remain open during the shelter-in-place order because it is considered essential.
Not only does Shower Power offer showers for the homeless, the mobile unit provides a necessities bag that includes toiletries, and they serve home cooked meals. “We are trying to change everyone’s life and make a difference one shower at a time,” Couch said.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, the mobile shower unit gave haircuts and shaves. They would also provide clothes and books. Renkenberger and Couch also pray with many in the community, but now they remain 6 feet apart. “We are loving everybody from a distance,” Teresa said. “But, what we do is help people get clean and feel loved and worthy.”
Eric J. Shelton was a 2018 corps member in Report for America, and joined the team as our first photojournalist. A native of Columbia, Miss., Eric earned his bachelor’s in photojournalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was a multimedia journalist for Abilene Reporter-News, chief photographer for the Hattiesburg American and photo editor for the Killeen Daily Herald before joining our team June 2018. He rejoined Mississippi Today as our health photojournalist in January 2022.