A year in, mobile hygiene center demonstrates the incredible power of a shower

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Mar. 7, 2019 at 5:09 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For Cindy Tokita, HieHie is a project she’s passionate about.

The mobile hygiene center provides some basic comforts of home to people who don’t have one.

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

“You don’t want to just take cold showers,” she said.

The 59-year-old is a volunteer. She’s started donating her time not long after the program launched a year ago.

“I try to see what I can do for them. If I can be of help,” Tokita said, smiling. “I always keep bugging them. What’s your schedule next week?”

The mobile hygiene center travels to different communities across Oahu up to five days a week.

In its first year, its showers have served close to 15 percent of the island’s homeless population.

The power of a shower is something just about everyone can relate to, especially when you haven’t had one in a while.

Tokita knows that firsthand.

“Currently, I’m on King Street,” she said.

Tokita’s been homeless about a year now. Even with roommates, housing became something she could no longer afford.

After months of rinsing off at the beach, she stumbled across the mobile hygiene center in a church parking lot.

“I said, ‘What is that?’ When I walked up to them they said we have a hot shower, I said, you’re joking, you’re joking,” said Tokita. “I jumped in. It was really good. It really refreshed me.”

Annie Valentine heads up the project on behalf of the non-profit Project Vision Hawaii.

“For some individuals this shower is the only shower they’ve had access to in years where it’s private and hot," she said.

Each person is given a towel and a hygiene kit.

However, a shower is just the beginning. Clients can also be connected with jobs, drug treatment and a place to stay.

In November, the non-profit launched it’s second mobile hygiene center on Hawaii Island.

“Now we’re going to have a program there. We’re going to be able to take it mobile around the island with the purpose of helping people find housing,” said Valentin.

As for Tokita, she remains optimistic.

“They told me they’re going to try and get me my birth certificate and work from there. That’s step one," she said.

Her sights are now set on housing ― and giving back to a program she says has given her so much.

“My feeling is that they’ve done a lot for me to make me rejuvenate and make me be on the go,” said Tokita. “I want to help them too.”

The project continues to expand, adding new stops to its routes on both Oahu and Hawaii Island.

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