He turned a $5,000 truck into a mobile shower that's making a big difference.

Jake Austin has been volunteering with the homeless in St. Louis, Missouri, for years. But he just recently had a huge epiphany.

Meet Jake. Photo by Shower to the People, used with permission


"Most of my life I've been volunteering in different capacities," he said. "One group was doing food and clothes, and I went down there to help out. They had a hygiene table that was in disarray. So I asked if I could take it over."

Austin started bringing in donations — soaps, shampoos, etc. — and handing them out to folks in need.

But one day, a man politely turned Austin and his donated soap down. And that's when he realized: Donated hygiene items don't do people any good unless they have a safe, comfortable place to use them.

"People will say, 'I have 10 blankets and a bag full of sandwiches, but I haven't showered in months,'" Austin told Upworthy.

For folks who are homeless, a shower can be a rare and sometimes life-changing luxury.

Photo via iStock.

A hot shower might not trump the need for basic things like food and shelter, but that's exactly what makes hygiene such an overlooked need for many people who are homeless.

The fact is, being able to maintain basic hygiene is an absolute must for anyone hoping to secure or hold down a job. It's also a huge factor in warding off disease and infections.

Plus, it's hard to deny the fact that you just feel better when you're clean.

That's why Austin wants to make it easier for people in his city to get clean using an incredible mobile shower truck.

It's like a food truck, but for showers! Photo by Shower to the People, used with permission.

The brilliant name for his new nonprofit? Shower to the People.

Jake bought an old truck off Craigslist for $5,000, and after a successful GoFundMe campaign and help from a bunch of really smart people, he retrofitted it to house two private shower stalls with sinks and mirrors.

The unit hooks up to fire hydrants and heats the water using an external generator, meaning the truck can travel and provide free, warm showers pretty much anywhere in the city.

Photo by Shower to the People, used with permission.

According to Austin, St. Louis has plenty of homeless shelters, but the showers are usually only open to official residents.

"Folks will save up what money they can find and try to get a gym membership. Beyond that they'll use public sinks, libraries, the river. Or they'll go into people's backyards to use the hose," he says.

The Shower to the People truck is an awesome, low-cost solution that offers more privacy, more convenience, better-kept facilities, and shower services for 60 people every day.

So far, Shower to the People and other programs like it are making a big difference.

Austin and his crew, in partnership with FOCUS North America, had the cameras rolling during their truck's first day on the streets, and the reactions said it all.

He recalled one powerful moment:

"A couple of weeks ago there was a girl that came up to the truck. She was kind of crabby. Upset. Rightly so, given her experience. She had kind of an attitude, but we were being as polite as possible. She wanted to shave her legs — we were trying to be efficient, but I said, 'Hey, take as much time as you need.' When she came out, she was glowing. It was such an amazing experience."

GIFs via Shower to the People/YouTube.

It's a little early to tell if increasing access to showers will directly lead to big turnarounds for the folks who participate, but helping them feel a little better is a good start.

Shower to the People isn't the first group to provide showers for folks who are living rough, either.

There are also programs like Lava Mae in San Francisco and Think Dignity in San Diego that offer similar services. And Austin wants to take his own version of a mobile shower unit into more cities soon too.

Austin says, "Our goal isn't just to have clean people on the streets. Our goal is to help get people off the streets."

A hot shower won't solve everything for people living in extreme poverty, but it can be a step in the right direction on the path to a better life.

Kudos to Jake Austin for finding a simple solution to an underserved problem. Let's hope more smart people will be following in his footsteps real soon.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.