Hundreds of people living in a drought-stricken California farm town could soon be taking their first hot shower in months after county officials set up portable facilities in a church parking lot.
Residents of East Porterville in the agricultural Central Valley must bring their own towel and soap, but the hot shower is free. Until now, many have been forced to bathe from buckets and drink bottled water.
Andrew Lockman, manager of the Tulare County Office of Emergency Service, said Tuesday that officials were worried about residents taking sponge baths during the colder weather.
“The poor certainly get poorer,” he said. “We're trying to provide a safety net, a basic quality of life as people struggle through this disaster.”
The county brought in 26 portable showers at a cost of $30,000 a month in the poor town with about 7,000 residents nestled against the Sierra Nevada foothills.
The wells in the area began running dry early this year, and Lockman said he knows of 600 households where people are taking sponge baths from buckets.
The county is renting trailers containing the showers and paying for security, janitorial services and electricity to provide the service. Over six months, it could cost more than $150,000, with the state contributing 75 percent, Lockman said.
The drought has put many people out of work along with depriving families of running water, he said.
“There's a lot of people out there who have a really strong need,” he said. “They're out there working in the fields. They come home wet and dirty.”