Providing Clothing, Cleanliness and Comfort
WAVE Project’s Essentials Van delivers social and emotional health around Metro Detroit
A man approaches the service window of the Essentials Van, a mobile closet that delivers free clean clothes and hygiene products to people in need around Metro Detroit. Though it’s summertime, he’s looking for a pair of pants in preparation for winter.
It’s his lucky day. A volunteer checks the van’s stock and returns to the window with a pair of brand-new pants, tags still attached, in the right size.
The man becomes emotional as he takes the gift. He says it’s the first pair of new pants he’s ever received.
That’s the reality for a lot of clients, says Todd Gordon, executive director of WAVE (Welcoming All, Valuing Everyone) Project, the non-profit behind the van. “They’ve never in their life been given a new pair of pants. Something like that could mean the world to somebody.”
“For many of us, we take for granted the fact that we can wash 10 or 15 feet from our bed and have a safe, secure bathroom,” explains Gordon.
“The whole experience promotes improved social and emotional health for our clients,” he adds, noting the organization serves people who are unhoused as well as others in need, such as elderly people who can’t step into the bathtub in their home or those whose water has been cut off because they’re behind on bills.
Gordon founded WAVE in 2018 with five friends who were inspired to make life better for people experiencing homelessness in the Detroit area. Though a young organization, it has gained a loyal following and public support.
Enbridge recently provided a Safe Community grant of $48,000 to help WAVE purchase the Essentials Van, equip it with customized shelving, and stock it with much-needed items—underwear, socks, blankets, coats, shoes, deodorant, shampoo, toothbrushes, and sanitary products.
For Gordon, the motivation to help came easy once he saw the positive difference the services have on people’s lives.
“There’s nothing like seeing somebody facing barriers and adversity trust you enough to ask for sensitive personal items and then go into a shower trailer,” he explains. “They go in feeling dirty and not well, but the moment that door opens, they come out feeling rejuvenated, and it’s magic.”
Gordon adds: “It’s one of the most pure and joyful human moments I’ve ever experienced.”