The Soupman’ is bringing a mobile shower and good intentions to homeless people - Support the Soupman
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The Soupman’ is bringing a mobile shower and good intentions to homeless people

Original Article | By Max Jungreis Globe Correspondent, November 28, 2019, 6:56 p.m.

Peter
Peter Kelleher, nicknamed “The Soupman,” has spearheaded the mobile shower effort.DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

BROCKTON — On a radiant fall morning, a small crowd of people mill around a parking lot behind a drop-in center for the homeless. Some are rifling through the open bins of clothes stacked on a few buffet tables, and occasionally one person climbs into a boxy silver trailer that looks like the kind towed around by landscapers and contractors.

But instead of holding tools, the trailer has three tight compartments, each with a shower stall and tiled floor. One by one, the homeless tote toiletries, fresh clothing, and towels into the trailer, and emerge a few minutes later, shining skin and damp hair, usually looking a bit more cheerful than before.

“They really seem to come out of this brighter,” said Kim Meszar of Bridgewater, who works part time helping run the shower. “It’s just wonderful to be able to help.”

A refreshed Heather Cole was all smiles coming out of the shower trailer. DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF
A refreshed Heather Cole was all smiles coming out of the shower trailer. DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

The rolling shower is the brainchild of Peter Kelleher, whose relentless drive to help the homeless was sparked by tragedy: the 59-year-old Bridgewater man lost his son, Travis, who died at 32 of an opioid overdose in 2016 while living on the streets of Bangor.

At the time, Kelleher was running a dog-sitting service from his house, and recalled the moment he decided to channel his grief over his son’s death into something more positive.

“I was sitting in my backyard, doing my doggie day care, crying,” Kelleher said. “I have to do something. I have to do something to honor my son who was out in the streets.”

He started with a relatively straightforward plan: serving hot meals to the homeless, first in nearby Brockton. His signature hamburger soup earned him the nickname “The Soupman.” Over time he attracted volunteers and donors, and expanded his operation to include backpacks with supplies such as gloves, protein bars, and toiletries. He also started a nonprofit, Support the Soupman, with the goal of expanding services to other New England communities.

“I think sometimes people give you money just to get away from you,” said Kelleher. “Because I’m persistent . . . and I think that has a lot to do with where we are.”

The idea for the mobile shower came one day when Peter Kelleher and another volunteer were helping homeless people. “ ‘Where are they taking a shower?’ ” Kelleher recalled asking his colleague. “He didn’t have an answer. I didn’t have an answer.”DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF
The idea for the mobile shower came one day when Peter Kelleher and another volunteer were helping homeless people. “ ‘Where are they taking a shower?’ ” Kelleher recalled asking his colleague. “He didn’t have an answer. I didn’t have an answer.”DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

At the time, Kelleher was running a dog-sitting service from his house, and recalled the moment he decided to channel his grief over his son’s death into something more positive.

“I was sitting in my backyard, doing my doggie day care, crying,” Kelleher said. “I have to do something. I have to do something to honor my son who was out in the streets.”

He started with a relatively straightforward plan: serving hot meals to the homeless, first in nearby Brockton. His signature hamburger soup earned him the nickname “The Soupman.” Over time he attracted volunteers and donors, and expanded his operation to include backpacks with supplies such as gloves, protein bars, and toiletries. He also started a nonprofit, Support the Soupman, with the goal of expanding services to other New England communities.

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