SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Christian nonprofit in Springfield helps the less fortunate in various ways, and is now offering free showers to the homeless.
John Stroup, executive director of Freeway Ministries World Headquarters in Springfield, says he often hears, “I wish they would just get cleaned up and get a job.” Thus, Freeway Ministries has started a new ministry called “Get Clean.”
“How are you going to get cleaned up?” asks Stroup rhetorically. “A lot of times the people on the street don’t have anywhere to take a hot shower. You give them hygiene and new clothes, but where are they going to wash their clothes at? They actually take baths in the restrooms of gas stations. I thought, ‘Well, what can we do to clean our city up and actually make a difference here?’ I searched around and there was nobody doing this.”
The ministry has purchased a three-shower trailer at a cool $47,000. Additionally, the unit is professionally wrapped in its own unique branding. Freeway buses pick up homeless citizens every Tuesday and bring them to the unit for a shower from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Those taking advantage of the free service are given towels and shower shoes. Showers are limited to 20 minutes apiece with five additional minutes given to dry off.
Stroup says he was homeless and troubled through much of his 20s, and understands and has an affinity for what these individuals go through on a daily basis.
“They are my people group. People who struggle with drugs, crime, addiction, homelessness and poverty. Jesus said, ‘When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was thirsty you took me in. When I was in prison you visited me. When I was naked you clothed me.’ They said, ‘Jesus, when did we clothe you, feed you, give you something to drink and visit you in prison?’ He said, ‘What you do to the least of these, you do to me.’”
Freeway Ministries was established as a local church ministry in 2011 under Stroup, Rick Lechner and Mike Aye. The three began meeting in a coffee shop to discuss God and to pray together. Soon, the co-founders began to have conversations about those with similar backgrounds to theirs. With the help of their pastor, Eddie Bumpers, the men began Freeway Ministries with a mission to work in outreach, evangelism and discipleship.
After initially being a ministry of a church, Freeway Ministries has been a nonprofit for the past 11 years. It has expanded rapidly and currently has five locations in the United States, as well as a base in South Africa.
Stroup says before the homeless can come to Freeway for a shower they are asked to sign a code of conduct.
“Basically we tell them how we expect them to behave here. We want to make sure they are going to be good guests.”
Guests are also closely evaluated in the case of an abusive situation or addiction. If someone is being abused, they are offered services at a battered shelter. Rehabilitation referrals are extended if a visitor has an addiction and wants help. If they don’t own an ID, Freeway Ministries will help them obtain one.
“Most importantly for us, we ask, ‘Did you know the blood of Jesus can wash you clean?’ We share the gospel with them, giving them the chance to accept Christ. When they are done with the questionnaire their counselor walks into the clothing closet and gives them brand new socks, underwear and hygiene.”
For more information about Freeway Ministries, visit its website