PAWTUCKET – An out-of-state philanthropist with a heart for the homeless says he’s prepared to bring his mobile shower unit to serve Pawtucket’s homeless residents on a weekly basis.
Peter Kelleher, also known as “the Soupman,” says all he needs are a location for his three-bay shower, with access to a hose or fire hydrant for water, and a corporate sponsor to help cover the cost.
Kelleher, whose son Travis died in 2016 following a battle with addiction, first began serving soup to the homeless a year later as a way to turn his family’s tragedy into something good. That effort based in Massachusetts has grown since, with Kelleher and his Support the Soupman Corp. expanding to bring clothes, toiletries and showers to those less fortunate.
Kelleher said he read in last week’s edition of The Valley Breeze about the continued lack of shower access for city homeless residents, including some who hadn’t taken showers since a shower program on Dexter Street shut down June 28. That reality, he said, simply isn’t acceptable, and he wants to do something about it.
“The sooner we can get down there, the better off everyone is,” he said. “Everyone needs a shower.”
Kelleher now has two buses and a portable shower at his disposal. Homeless are given toiletry bags, including deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and a change of clothes. Ocean State Job Lot has been very generous in making it all possible, he said.
“We have 9,000 pairs of boots and we don’t know what to do with them all,” he said. “It’s just been incredible.”
The growing charity will soon come out with a line of quality foods, he said.
The ultimate goal, Kelleher said, is to launch a shower program in every major city in New England, leased to nonprofits. His first shower unit visits Brockton, Mass., every Monday and Taunton, Mass., every Thursday, he said, but another day could work for Pawtucket. After purchasing its first shower last November, the organization is now working on an agreement to bring the showers to Quincy, Mass., on Wednesdays.
“I want to use five days a week, maybe six,” he said.
He’s partnering with Tufts on a shower for Bangor, Maine, where his son died, and there are also talks about bringing mobile showers to Boston.
“We need sponsors, we need money,” he said.
Kelleher previously ran a dog daycare and now takes only $350 per week as pay from the nonprofit. He can do that, he said, because his wife has a great job and allows him to. He said he’s been given a gift from God and wants to share it with others.
This charity is about people helping people, with no egos involved or credit needed.
“That is what it’s about for me,” said Kelleher.
Pawtucket officials have been discussing for more than a month how to bring back showers for the homeless in Pawtucket after the Pawtucket Central Falls Development’s move to bring office space at its Dexter Street location to replace the showers previously housed there. House of Hope’s ACCESS-RI program moved to a new location on Roosevelt Avenue, but that location doesn’t offer showers.
For more on Kelleher’s efforts, visit www.supportthesoupman.org