The Right to Bathe

No matter how often residents of long-term care or nursing homes are told “this is your home, treat it like home” it’s hard to get used to not being able to have a shower or bath when the resident likes.  

A bath, or shower is a trivial thing for many who live on the “outside” but can be a big treat for those who live in – to be honest – an institution. There is often not the staff, the time or the trouble given much beyond getting people out of bed, dressed, and out of their rooms for meals.  In fact on average residents receive a bath once a week and as the Globe and Mail’s health columnist André Picard notes,

“At what point does caring for the personal hygiene of a patient move from necessity to luxury? Should patients have choice in these matters, or do you have to give up your voice and succumb to the whimsy (and cost controls) of the system?”

André Picard here

No right to bathe if you’re homeless

Well it turns out people living literally “outside” institutions and everywhere else –the homeless and the home insecure– also have a problem accessing a bath or shower. In Halifax, the program and services line, 211, logs only three places that provide free showers to the homeless.  And one of the three, Phoenix Centre on Coburg Rd, only provides showers to homeless people under age 24.  The other two places – the Housing Hub on Cunard St, and Adsum House on Gottingen St restrict shower hours to a couple of hours on some (not all) weekday afternoons.  There are no showers available in evenings or on weekends. 

Today on the bus, I overheard a young woman phoning 211 to ask where she can get a shower.  She has a cast on one leg and lives in a homeless shelter near the Commons. Today between 12 and 3 pm she can visit Adsum House for a shower.  And Adsum House supplies  shampoo, conditioner, soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and even a towel—which is great. 

Bagged lunches, but nowhere to “be” all day long

So how do we still have more than 400 people in HRM who are homeless – most of whom access food by roaming from church basement to social centres where they pick up lunch bags. But they are discouraged from sitting inside anywhere all day, have nowhere permanent to sleep and can’t even get a shower.

Featured Image above: photo from, credit Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Image.

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