In 2018, Lisa Gillotti started a nonprofit organization, Build A Bus Home, with the goal of recycling old school buses for homeless people to live in. But in April 2019, she decided to focus on hygiene, not housing. The need for hygiene services has become more essential with the COVID-19 pandemic as it poses an even greater threat to our homeless community who are already grappling with the hardships of poverty.
“Originally, we had two buses that were meant to be transformed into homes but as we started focusing on hygiene, we moved to provide people with hot showers, sinks, toilets, and laundry machines using mobile facilities.” Gillotti told the JOLT.
Build a Bus Home owns a 53-foot trailer equipped with 17 showers. Each stall is set-up with soap and a private curtain. A red truck for collecting gray water accompanies these two rigs, along with a powerful generator. “One end of the trailer has five showers and the other end has twelve,” Gillotti explained, “but in order to maintain social distance, we switched to using just four. Once the person is done using these services, a volunteer comes in to sanitize the area.”
Betsy Loyer has been a volunteer with Build a Bus Home for the last six months. She is very impressed at how Gillotti and her staff have persisted through serious obstacles, with the help of volunteer labor and services. “People to make lunch for the folks serving all day,” Loyer told the JOLT. “People donating PPE, labor, expertise, masks, tents, the City of Olympia granting a contract, LOTT allowing us to dump gray water for free, Intercity Transit allowing the use of a community van to transport folks, and so on.”
Loyer admits to being “hooked” on her volunteer work for the organization. “There is such a positive, "We can DO this," energy about it,” Loyer said. “I want to be a part of it.”
Since the end of July, Evergreen Christian Community Church has been providing space in its parking lot for the shower trailer on Saturdays. In November, the trailer will move to Unity of Olympia. In addition, Build a Bus Home is currently in communication with an Olympia business for adding a downtown location for Saturdays.