With close proximity to the end of the 2/5 subway line at the Flatbush Junction, many of the unhoused have been frequenting the area without access to the basic services that many of us take for granted; it can be heartbreaking for some to see, but since its debut on August 27th, there has been a shower bus nearby to provide needed support for them.
Brooklyn Community Services (BCS) Health, Housing and Homelessness Solutions Division and the Community Assignment, Inc. have been working together to provide equitable access to extend services to the unhoused in the area, treating them with dignity and respect.
A BCS mobile care unit shower bus is stationed at East 31st Street and Flatbush Avenue on Saturdays and, as conditions permit, from about 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The bus will there until the end of November. Outside the bus is a table set up with clear plastic packages containing a new towel, toiletries and essential items.
CEO and President of Community Assignment Ramona Sargeant is a homeless advocate. She calls out to the unhoused people in the area and invites them to visit the shower bus, where they can access a hot shower, restroom facilities, food, socks, undergarments and a change of clothes. Support services for mental health, peer counseling, housing, employment and other social services are also available as needed. She, along with Nicole Zephrin, Givenson Cadet and others, work together as a team to provide caring support and help with the operation of the bus.
“We’re hoping that by us being here every week, we can develop their trust,” Sargeant said of the main goal of trying to get the unhoused to accept services in a shelter, even if only for the winter.
She said that at first, some in this population were reluctant and not sure if they should get on the bus, worrying about what was going to happen to them. They soon realized that Sargeant and her team were there for them.
Every week, more of the unhoused started to line up for the bus as word got around. Sargeant said that they were very grateful and happy and said to them, “You guys are angels.”
Sargeant said that there were a lot of stories and those she spoke with were reluctant to go to the shelters because many had bad experiences. “This is the interim,” she said. “Even if you don’t use shelters, you still need a shower and clean clothes – we fill that gap.”
Neighborhood people started to come by to ask what she was doing and liked what they heard. They wanted to help and brought by donations. Even local businesses donated clothing to them, but they still need additional support to keep up with demand.
Sargeant graduated from New York Theological Seminary two years ago, earning her Master of Divinity, at which time she wrote about homelessness in her community. She developed her passion when her brother experienced homelessness in Trinidad. She considers this work her calling.
“You really have to love doing this to be out here,” she said. “It takes a lot of patience to work with some of our individuals as mental health is also one of their issues that we’re dealing with, but BCS helps with that.”
The shower bus was launched in November 2020 by then Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, BCS, the Brooklyn City Council Delegation, Con Edison and Unilever. For more information, visit wearebcs.org/what-we-do/health-housing-and-homelessnesssolutions/ and thecommunityassignment.com/